The cornea is your window to the world but what happens if you need a corneal graft?
To understand it helps to know how the eye works.
Light travels through the cornea and is focused by the lens on to the retina, a fine layer of tissue at the back of the eye.
The retina sends the image to the brain via the optic nerve.
To work well the cornea must be clear and must maintain an even rounded shape.
A cornea that is damaged through injury or disease will affect your view of the world.
Keratoconus sometimes called conical cornea is a common disease that affects young adults.
Like most corneal disease it causes a weakening of the cornea wall.
Over time the cornea is forced into an egg shape by the pressure of fluid in the eye.
This distorts the clear passage of light affecting your eyesight.
Most cases of keratoconus can be managed with glasses or contact lenses, but some people will need surgery to replace the diseased cornea with a graft of healthy corneal tissue.
You should get a good visual result…
All surgery’s carry some risk.
Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery as it specifically relates to you.
The new cornea for your graft will come from someone who has chosen to donate their cornea after death.
The Lions New South Wales Eye Bank collects and keeps human corners for transplanting.
These donor eyes are quite literally the gift of sight.
Before a cornea is released for grafting the Eye Bank tests the tissue for viruses and also checks that it is good quality.
Sydney Eye Hospital is the state’s specialist hospital for corneal transplantation.
So what happens on the day of your surgery?
A great deal of care is taken to make sure that the information about you is accurate and up-to-date.
You may be asked more than once about your medical history and what medications you’re currently taking.
Your eye will be marked to alert medical staff when preparing for your surgery.
You will need an anaesthetic.
Most eye surgery is done under local anaesthetic.
That is an injection or drops are used to numb the area around the eye.
Before this, a sedative is given to help you relax.
You may feel drowsy, but you will remain conscious, however you should not see or feel anything during the operation and may not remember it either.
Corneal surgery will usually take an hour or so including preparations in the theatre.
The disease cornea is removed, and a new cornea stitched into place.
Afterwards you will be taken to a recovery area where you can recover from the sedative.
You may feel some discomfort from the stitches in your eye, but this will normally feel better after a few days.
An eye shield will protect the eye from accidental injury.
You will probably remain in hospital overnight.
The day following your surgery you will attend a clinic.
This is an opportunity for the doctor or their team to check on the surgery.
Your vision will be blurry at first but should improve over time.
You will need to attend periodic clinics to check your eye and it may be six months or more before the stitches can be removed.
However, most patients can return to work in a couple of weeks.
When you go home the nurse or doctor will give you eye drops, antibiotic drops protect the eye from infection, anti-inflammatory drops will stop your eye rejecting the new tissue.
Information sheets cover some do’s and don’ts while your eye recovers.
Most patients will benefit from a pair of glasses after surgery.
Corneal grafting is a sight saving surgery.
It would not be possible without the generous gift of a cornea.
The Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation would like to acknowledge the donors and their families in making possible this sight saving surgery.