Some people may not think about eyes when organ donation is discussed, but since 1961, over 1.5 million people worldwide owe their eyesight to corneal transplants made possible by tissue donation. The eye care professionals at the Witlin Center for Advanced Eye Care, serving East Brunswick, Toms River, and Morristown, New Jersey, are skilled surgeons and can see you through the process of corneal transplant should your natural corneas suffer from disorders. Call or click today to set up a consultation.
Medically called a keratoplasty, a tissue donor supplies a cornea to replace a diseased or damaged cornea in the recipient. The cornea is the clear dome in the central portion of your eye that handles much of the light refraction that permits your eyes to focus.
Cornea transplants can restore your sight and reduce pain due to disease or damage suffered by your original corneas. Some of the conditions your corneas could suffer from are:
With almost 50,000 corneal transplants performed annually in the United States, demand for corneal tissue is high. Fortunately, corneas for transplant remain viable for up to 14 days after donation, though most are transplanted within seven days.
One advantage corneas have over other transplanted organs is that they receive oxygen through the air, rather than through the bloodstream. With no blood vessels to connect, surgery is simple, and there’s much less chance of tissue rejection. There’s no need to match blood types or other biological markers. Corneal transplant surgery is successful about 95% of the time.
There are several techniques for performing a corneal transplant. The two main types are the traditional penetrating keratoplasty (PK), which replaces the full thickness of the cornea, and the endothelial keratoplasty (EK), which replaces only the back layer of the cornea.
The PK procedure removes a disk-shaped section from the center of the cornea. This disk is the full thickness of the cornea, and it’s replaced by donor tissue of the same size. The transplant is sutured in place, and a clear plastic shield covers the transplant as it heals. This surgery may be performed with special tools or a femtosecond laser.
When the surface of the cornea is undamaged, the EK procedure replaces corneal tissue only at the endothelial layer at the back of the cornea, through a tiny incision. This incision is usually self-healing, so no stitches or protective coverings are needed.