A corneal transplant, or keratoplasty, is a surgical procedure that replaces a cloudy or scarred cornea with a clear donor cornea to improve vision.
When the cornea becomes cloudy due to disease or injury, light rays are unable to pass through to reach the retina (the light-sensitive part of the eye). This can lead to poor vision or blindness. The cornea can be damaged by:
Infections or diseases
Types of corneal transplant surgery
In general, corneal transplant surgery can be classified into:
Descemet's Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK). A procedure that removes diseased endothelial cells from the inside of the cornea and replaces them with a new layer of endothelial cells.
Lamellar keratoplasty. A more advanced procedure that replaces diseased parts of the cornea and does not affect healthy corneal tissue. It is also known as a partial corneal transplant.
Penetrating keratoplasty. Generally regarded as conventional corneal transplant surgery, this procedure replaces the entire cornea.
Artificial cornea transplant (keratoprosthesis). This procedure replaces a diseased or scarred cornea with an artificial cornea made of plastic polymers.
Your surgeon will advise the most suitable procedure based on your condition and clinical findings.
In Singapore, donor corneas are procured:
Locally through cornea donation programmes (e.g. by the Singapore Eye Bank)
Internationally from accredited eye banks (e.g. from countries such as Sri Lanka, the United States and the Philippines)
Why do you need a corneal transplant?
If you have poor vision due to a diseased or cloudy cornea but have a healthy nerve and retina at the back of your eye, a corneal transplant can help to restore your vision.
As the damaged cornea can look cloudy, replacement with a clear donor cornea can also be a cosmetic improvement.
A corneal transplant can treat conditions such as:
Swelling of the cornea
Thinning or rupture of the cornea
Fuchs' dystrophy, a hereditary condition
A cornea that bulges outward (keratoconus)
Cornea scarring, caused by infection or injury
Corneal ulcers not responding to medical treatment
Complications caused by previous eye surgery
What are the risks and complications of a corneal transplant?
A corneal transplant is relatively safe. However, it carries a small risk of complications, such as: