Eye transplant is the solution to treating many corneal problems. It’s a medical procedure that involves the surgical replacement of the deceased cornea, by a healthy one from a deceased donor.
The term ‘eye transplant’ can be quite misleading. It often gives the impression that the whole eye is being transplanted, like in the case of a heart transplant. However, this is not the case here. Surgeons cannot carry out a whole eye transplant, because transplanting the entire eye would mean severing the optic nerve and then reattaching it via microsurgery, but this is a very complex procedure and as of today it is not medically possible. During the transplant only the cornea of the eye is replaced, thus, when we’re referring to an eye transplant, what we actually mean is a ‘corneal transplant’.
Corneal Transplant (Eye Transplant)
As per the statistics reported by the Eye Bank Association of America, ‘the corneal transplant recipients range in age from nine days to 103 years’. Over 40,000 corneal transplants are being performed in the United States every year. Also known as keratoplasty, this corneal transplant refers to the surgery in which the deceased or damaged cornea is replaced by a healthy cornea from the eye of a deceased person.
Why is it Carried Out?
The cornea is that transparent layer of tissue in the front region of the eye that comprises specialized type of collagen cells. Although corneal cells lack blood supply, they are furnished with a large number of nerve endings, which is why even the slightest damage caused to them can be extremely painful. When this clear tissue layer gets damaged, swells, thins, clouds, or gets scarred from severe infections or injuries, it needs to be replaced by healthy tissue to prevent vision loss.
During a corneal transplant, the patient is given local anesthesia, wherein the numbing medicine is injected into the eye to desensitize the patient. The surgeon will make a small, circular cut in the cornea of the eye, with the help of a small, sharp instrument called trephine, that bears semblance to a cookie press. The same shape and size of corneal tissue is also cut from the recently deceased donor’s eye, which is then sown into place.
This surgery takes about 30-90 minutes to complete. Brief hospitalization may be required. The patient is given an eye patch to wear for the first night after the surgery. Till the wound heals and the new corneal tissue sutured grows into place, the patient is asked to wear an eye shield or glasses, which will help protect the eye from external injuries. Medications in the form of antibiotics and eye drops are prescribed to prevent onset of eye infections. The stitches or sutures are left in for a period ranging from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the progress of the eye.
Risks Involved …
All surgeries are associated with some amount of risk. Complications such as infections, cataract formation, rejection, glaucoma, retinal detachment, etc., can occur after this transplant. The amount of vision restored after the transplant will also vary, depending on the condition that caused the earlier cornea to decease. However, the encouraging part is that corneal transplants have the highest success rate as compared to the other types of human organ transplants.
Eye transplants are possible only if people sign up and donate their eyes. This medical procedure is not possible without a deceased donors cornea, which is why it is important for us to donate our eyes. We may be able to prevent somebody from losing his or her sight.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.