The cornea is the clear covering on the front of the eye which bends, or refracts, light rays that focus on the retina in the back of the eye. A certain shape or curvature is required in order for light to focus exactly on the retina, rather than in front of it or behind it. An improperly curved cornea may be corrected surgically or non-invasively to reduce or eliminate the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. A thorough eye examination and consultation are necessary before a treatment decision can be made.
Corneal transplantation, or keratoplasty, is recommended when curvature is too severe to be treated with other methods, or when extensive damage has occurred due to disease, infection or injury. Common problems that require transplantation are:
- Dry Eyes
- Recurrent Erosion
- Corneal Ulceration
- Herpes Simplex Keratopathy
- Pseudophakic Corneal Decompensation
- Corneal Dystrophies
- External tumors
- Eye infections
- Traumatic injury
- Ocular surface diseases
- Chemical burn
Transplantation involves replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy one from a donor (usually through an eye bank). Keratoplasty is a low-risk procedure – it is the most common type of transplant surgery and has the highest success rate.
During the procedure, a circular incision is made in the cornea. A disc of tissue is removed and replaced with healthy tissue; these discs may be thin (lamellar keratoplasty) or as deep as the entire cornea (penetrating keratoplasty, the technique used in almost all corneal transplants). Local or general anesthesia may be used. The entire procedure lasts only 30-90 minutes.