Corneal Transplant

What is PK?

PK, or penetrating keratoplasty, is a full-thickness corneal transplant. When the cornea is so diseased or injured that other procedures simply won’t work, a corneal transplant is the next solution. PK involves removing and replacing the damaged corneal tissue with healthy donor tissue.

When Would I Need a PK?

Typically, disease or injury confined to the outermost layers of the cornea can be treated without scarring or vision loss. However, when inner layers are affected, there is a greater risk of permanent damage to vision. In these situations, a corneal transplant is the best option. When a corneal injury or disease leaves the cornea scarred or damaged, it can greatly affect a patient’s life.

Some conditions that often require a corneal transplant include:

  • Fuch’s dystrophy
  • Keratitis
  • Corneal stromal dystrophies
  • Regrafts
  • Keratoconus
  • Corneal ulcers

The Surgery

Corneal transplant surgery is an extremely common procedure, with approximately 40,000 people undergoing PK each year. This surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and can be done with local or general anesthetic.

During a full thickness transplant surgery, your surgeon will first remove the damaged tissue. This is done using a “cookie-cutter” type tool called a trephine. The precisely-matched donor tissue is then sutured into place.

The Recovery

Recovery time varies, but generally takes from about 6 months to a year to fully heal. After surgery, you will be given an eye shield to prevent any trauma such as bumping, rubbing, or hitting the cornea. You will also be given topical antibiotics and topical corticosteroids to use for the next several months. These will help stave off infection and other complications such as graft rejection. The corneal transplant success rate is quite high, at about 85-95%.

If you would like to know more about corneal transplant surgery at Anh Nguyen Ophthalmology, contact us today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there artificial corneas?

Yes. Artificial corneas do exist and have been used for over 50 years. However, results suggest that corneas from human donors work best for corneal transplants.

Can you have a second corneal transplant?

Yes. Secondary corneal transplants can be effective, but slightly less so than original corneal transplant procedures.

Are you awake during a corneal transplant?

Yes. Corneal transplants are usually performed with a combination of local anesthetic and a sedative so youre comfortable.

Do corneal transplants last forever?

In most cases, corneal transplants will last for the long term. They can require replacement, however, if the tissue is rejected or fails for various reasons.

Can a living person donate a cornea?

Yes. However, this is very rare and usually reserved for patients who need the eye removed for severe health reasons. Most corneal donations come from deceased people.

Do you have to lay flat after corneal transplant?

Yes. Laying flat on your back for the first few days after surgery can help the graft attach to the cornea. Your ophthalmology team will provide detailed instructions on how long and often to do this.

Can I wear glasses after corneal transplant?

Yes. You may still need corrective lenses after a corneal transplant surgery. Your ophthalmologist can give you the best indication of what to expect from your vision.

Does cornea transplant change eye color?

No. The color of the eye is determined by the iris, not the cornea, so your eye color will not change after a corneal transplant.

How long after a corneal transplant can you fly?

It can be unsafe to fly after a corneal transplant procedure, so you should plan your travel for at least two to three weeks afterward. Make sure to discuss your itinerary with your ophthalmologist during your appointment.

Is corneal transplant major surgery?

No. A corneal transplant is a relatively safe and minimally-invasive procedure. You should still plan to give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover afterward, however.

Can I fly immediately after a corneal transplant?

No. It can be unsafe to fly after a corneal transplant procedure, so you should plan your travel for at least two to three weeks afterward. Make sure to discuss your itinerary with your ophthalmologist during your appointment.

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