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Eye Transplant

Eye transplant should more specifically be called as Corneal transplant. Only the front transparent portion of the eye, the cornea is transplanted. The whole eye is not transplanted.

It is like changing the glass pane of your window, but you cannot change your whole house! 

The Medical term for Corneal transplant is Keratoplasty.

We have heard of heart, kidney, bone marrow transplants. But you will be surprised, Corneal transplants are the most frequent and one of the most successful transplant operations!

Corneal transplant will help only certain type of eye diseases that mainly affect the cornea, like

Corneal scarring, as occurs in a healed corneal ulcer.  

Severe corneal infection that is not controlled by medicines.

Corneal failure after other eye surgery, such as Cataract Surgery

Hereditary corneal problems, such as Fuch's Dystrophy

Keratoconus, where the cornea becomes conical and so thin, it may ultimately break open.

Corneal Injury after accidents

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What happens after the decision for a Corneal transplant is taken?

The patient's name will be included in an Eye Transplant waiting list. All the required information like the age, type of corneal diseases, urgency of the transplant will be listed. The most important thing he should furnish is an emergency contact address and a phone number.

In many countries, where facilities of phone are not available, messenger even travel to the person's home to inform him, that his name has come up on the list and the cornea is available!

From where does this cornea come?

Human tissue cannot be manufactured in factories. If someone needs a new cornea, someone needs to donate it. 

How can one donate cornea?

The request for eye donation is made on the driver's license. It can be made to relatives/ friends during life or at the time of death. 

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Tell me more about the Corneal transplant surgery!

  1. The patient's consent is taken.

  2. His eye is anesthetized, using Local Anesthesia. A sedative is given to keep him sleepy and calm.

  3. After the operation is area is cleaned with antiseptic solutions, an  eye drape is placed.

  4. The whole surgery is done using an Operating Microscope.

  5. The eye is kept open with a speculum or eyelid stitches.

  6. The corneal is cut out from the donated eye, with special instrument called 'Trephine'. 

  7. The patient's unhealthy cornea is excised.

  8. After removing any scar tissue underneath the cornea, the donor cornea is stitched to the patient's cornea with very fine surgical thread.

The thread used in most Ophthalmic surgeries is 1/10th the thickness of human hair!

The patient may stay for only 1-2 days in the hospital or may leave in the evening on the same day.

He needs to use eye medications like 

Antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection

Steroid eye drops to control inflammation and prevent transplant rejection

Cycloplegic eye drops to keep the inner eye muscles relaxed.

Pain-killer medicines may be required for a 1-2 days. He needs to keep his eyes protected from dust, by using dark glasses.

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What is the success rate for Corneal transplants?

The success rate varies with various factors like the patient's age, donor corneal quality, surgical skills etc. But it just suffices to state that Corneal Transplant is the most successful transplant surgery. Corneal Graft Rejection is less common because there are almost no blood vessels in the cornea.

Does the eye color change after transplant surgery?

No, Since only the cornea is transplanted, the eye color does not change. 

What are the complications of Corneal transplant surgery?

The complications of this surgery are:

Infection

Inner eye swelling in form of Uveitis

Glaucoma

Rejection of the transplant

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Tell me more about eye donation!

Eye donations can be pledged to an Eye-Bank or on Driver's License or as an expressed wish before death. There is a tremendous requirement for Eye donation.
The Eye-Bank should be informed immediately about the person's death. 
The trained Eye-Bank personnel arrive as early as possible. They need to see the Death Certificate and require the signatures of two close relatives or friends on the Eye Donation Consent Form
Their procedure takes about 30 minutes. Their is NO disfiguration of the body.
Most eye-banks give a Certificate of Thanks.
The donated eyes are transported in special glass containers, kept in ice-cooled flasks.
The donated cornea are checked for their quality and after absence of any disease is confirmed, it is approved for Transplant.
The Race, sex, caste, creed of the donor do not make any difference to the success of the procedure.

Even the white of the donor eye, the Sclera, is not wasted. Banked Sclera is used in other eye diseases.

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