About Cornea Transplants
At Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, SD, we offer full and partial-thickness cornea transplants to patients diagnosed with corneal disease or damage to the cornea. After surgically removing the central part of the diseased or damaged cornea, our surgeon will replace it with a matching donor cornea. Our experienced, board-certified ophthalmologist surgeons Drs. Berdahl, Greenwood, and board-eligible ophthalmologist Dr. Swan utilize world-class technology to provide full and partial-thickness cornea transplants successfully.
Descemet's Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty surgery improves vision by removing the damaged cells and replacing them with healthy endothelial donor tissue. It is a partial-thickness corneal transplant that uses a much thinner donor tissue than a complete transplant.
We provide Descemet's membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK) for patients who need to replace a partial-thickness endothelial layer, thinner than DSEK. DMEK patients are less likely to reject the donor tissue and visual clarity after surgery can be better.
Full Thickness Corneal Transplant
If the whole thickness of the cornea is unhealthy, a full thickness corneal transplant called a Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK) will be required. During the PK procedure a circle of corneal tissue is removed and replaced with the donor tissue. The new corneal tissue will be stitched into place for a comfortable and smooth healing process.
Cornea Transplant Reviews
If you are a candidate for a cornea transplant, we would like to help you prepare for a surgery that will significantly improve your vision. You may have experienced:
- Fuchs' dystrophy
- Penetrating keratoplasty
- Scarring of the cornea
- Chronic fluid buildup within the cornea
- Cloudy vision
To find out if you qualify for a corneal implant, we encourage you to schedule a thorough assessment at Vance Thompson Vision.
On the day of your outpatient surgery, the cornea transplant will involve the replacement of the center part of the cornea, or the button, with a donor cornea under anesthesia. Your affected eye will be held open with a speculum, and the surgeon will surgically remove the cornea. Some treatment plans only include the removal of the inside layer (endothelium). Carefully, your surgeon will remove the diseased tissue and replace it with a matching donor cornea. Sutures will be used to connect the donor tissue to your natural eye to hold the new cornea in place as the eye heals. A bandage will be placed over the eye for your protection.
As an outpatient procedure, your ophthalmologist surgeon will perform your DSEK procedure in about 15 – 20 minutes. Numbing drops desensitize the eye and the damaged or diseased portion of the cornea (about 100 microns of the inner layer) will be removed. The incision will be very small, and the donor tissue will be placed on the back of the innermost layer of the cornea. Your surgeon will use air to push and reposition the donor cornea into place. Once the tissue adheres to your cornea, it should resume normal functionality. The incision will then be closed with 1 – 2 sutures if it does not seal up on its own.
DMEK is performed in less than an hour (about 30 minutes) in an outpatient setting. Your ophthalmologist surgeon will numb your eye with a local anesthetic before making the first incision to remove the existing endothelial layer from the weakened cornea. Once the endothelial layer is cleared, your surgeon will insert the donor cornea (ten microns of the inner layer). The new cornea will be properly positioned with the use of gas (air bubble) until it unfolds. You may or may not need a suture to close the incision as it sometimes seals on its own.
Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK)
The PK procedure takes about an hour to perform in an outpatient surgery suite. Your eye will be numbed during surgery, and a full thickness donor cornea will replace your diseased cornea. Recovery can take up to a year, with many patients experiencing improved vision sooner. Follow-up care for PK patients is as long as it is because the sutures placed during surgery need to be removed between the six and twelve month post-operative period, based on how much astigmatism the patient may have remaining in his or her eye.
What to Expect
Your surgical team will show you how to care for your eye after the procedure. Recovery may be slow at first, but you can expect to have amazing patient care at Vance Thompson Vision. If both eyes need a cornea transplant, it can be up to a year or longer before the second cornea transplant can be scheduled. It is very important to follow all your aftercare instructions from your surgeon and attend all follow-up appointments with your eye care provider.
After DSEK surgery, you should be able to see better within 2 – 3 months. By the fifth or sixth month, you can expect to have 20/40 vision. DSEK has a very high success rate with only 9% of donor tissue rejection after the first year. If the donor cornea is rejected, the procedure can be performed again. It is important to keep all follow-up appointments with your eye care provider so that your progress can be documented and monitored to avoid complications after the surgery.
On average, a DMEK patient will obtain 20/25 vision within the first six months after the surgery. Many of our DMEK patients at Vance Thompson Vision report that they have better vision 1 – 2 months after surgery. While there is always the possibility of donor tissue rejection, recent studies show that DMEK has a 0.7% donor tissue rejection rate. If the first DMEK procedure does not take, the donor tissue will be removed and substituted with a replacement tissue.
- Recovery Time
- 1 year
- Procedure Time
- 1.5 hours
- Follow Up Time
- 1 day, 1 week, 1 month
- Recovery Location
Discover Your Options
At Vance Thompson Vision, we’re dedicated to using the world’s most advanced technology in combination with our vast experience to help you see and enjoy life more clearly. To set up an appointment or ask any questions, please contact us today. If you are seeking a cornea transplant in South Dakota, the eye doctors at Vance Thompson Vision can help put you on the road to better vision.