Cornea Transplant (Penetrating Keratoplasty, Full-Thickness Transplant Surgery) – Billings, MT

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About Cornea Transplants

The team at Vance Thompson Vision in Billings, MT performs full- and partial-thickness corneal transplants for patients who are suffering with a cornea disease or trauma. Once the damaged portion of your tissue has been delicately excised, it will be replaced with healthy donor tissue. To carry out the most efficient transplant surgery that produces the best results, Dr. Swan and his team utilize state-of-the-art technology. Cornea transplant surgery is a diverse procedure that is suited to meet your unique needs, and it is known for its exceedingly high rates of success. There are several techniques that can be incorporated for a cornea transplant, including:

  • DSEK:
    Descemet's Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty, often shortened to DSEK, is a partial-thickness corneal transplant technique that removes diseased endothelial cells and replaces them with high-quality donor tissue. Since this technique is a partial-thickness transplant surgery, the donor corneal tissue used is much thinner when compared to a full cornea transplant.
  • DMEK:
    DMEK (Descemet's Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty) is similar to DSEK in that they are both partial-thickness corneal transplant techniques that are implemented to replace a damaged endothelial layer of the cornea. However, DMEK utilizes an even thinner donor sample, and patients are more likely to accept the new, healthy tissue, which can produce clearer, more accurate vision.
  • Full-thickness corneal transplant:
    If damage has penetrated each layer of the cornea, a full-thickness transplant (also called a Penetrating Keratoplasty, or PK) will be performed to remove the damaged tissue and replace the cornea with a healthy donor sample. To perform your PK surgery, one of our highly skilled ophthalmologists will carefully remove the diseased tissue that extends throughout the entire thickness of the cornea and place the donor cornea in the correct location. It will then be sutured to remain in place, and the natural healing process will begin.

Cornea FAQs

Best Candidates

Typically, cornea transplants are considered for patients who experience any of the following issues:

  • Corneal scarring
  • Cloudy, blurry, or distorted vision
  • Chronic fluid buildup within the cornea

Additionally, a partial- or full-thickness transplant may be the most successful solution for patients suffering from keratoconus or Fuchs' dystrophy. To determine your candidacy for a cornea transplant, one of our ophthalmologists will perform a thorough eye examination at Vance Thompson Vision. If a cornea transplant is chosen to restore your eye health and vision, we will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Treatment Options

A cornea transplant, both partial- and full-thickness techniques, are performed as an outpatient procedure. During your surgery, the center portion of your cornea (also called the button) will be delicately removed and replaced with healthy donor tissue while you are under a form of anesthesia. The treated eye will be kept open with a speculum to prevent movement. Depending on the type of corneal transplant you are receiving, Dr. Swan or a skilled member of his team will remove either the entire thickness or the cornea or just the endothelial layer. Once your donor cornea has been placed in the proper position, we will carefully stitch the healthy tissue to the natural eye. Once your procedure has concluded, we will apply a bandage contact lens to the eye for protection and to encourage healthy, comfortable healing. During your transplant, one of three techniques may be utilized:

  • DSEK:
    Partial-thickness DSEK transplants take place in an outpatient setting. This surgery will only require about 15 – 20 minutes to complete. First, anesthetic eye drops will be applied to the eye to numb the area, and the damaged portion of your endothelium will be carefully excised. The incision created is tiny, and your healthy donor tissue will be positioned toward the back of the inner corneal layer. One of our ophthalmologists will then use air to precisely maneuver your new cornea into its correct location. Once the donor tissue has effectively adhered to your natural eye, your vision and eye function should be restored. Once DSEK surgery is complete, the incision will either heal on its own or we will place 1 – 2 sutures to close the area.
  • DMEK:
    DMEK is a partial-thickness transplant technique that can be completed in about 30 minutes as an outpatient surgery. To begin, one of our ophthalmologists will desensitize the eye with special numbing drops to ensure your comfort. Once these drops take effect, the first incision will be made. We will then removed the endothelium from your cornea and insert the healthy donor tissue. Our team will utilize gas, or an air bubble, to accurately position your new endothelial layer until it has unfolded and lays securely within the natural cornea. Since the incision made for this procedure is tiny, it will either heal on its own or require 1 – 2 stitches to seal it off.
  • Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK):
    Penetrating Keratoplasty is a full-thickness cornea transplant technique that is performed in an outpatient surgery suite and takes roughly an hour for completion. We will numb your eye will special drops before removing the diseased portion of your cornea and replacing it with healthy donor tissue. The healing period for this advanced procedure can take as long as one year, but the majority of patients will notice an improvement in their vision sooner. Sutures will need to be removed between the six- and twelve-month post-operative period, depending on the level of astigmatism present.

What to Expect

Following your cornea transplant, our team will provide you with detailed instructions to help you properly care for your eye during the recovery stage. While healing may seem slow initially, you will have wonderful, effective results to look forward to. If you require a corneal transplant for both eyes, it may take a year or more for you to receive your second transplant surgery. It's crucial that you carefully follow the aftercare instructions we will provide you with to ensure that your eye heals well. You should also attend all scheduled checkup appointments at our Billings, MT office so we can monitor your eye health.

  • DSEK:
    Following your DSEK transplant, you most likely will notice an improvement in your vision after just 2 – 3 months. After five or six months post-op, your sight should progress to 20/40 vision. DSEK boasts an incredibly high rate of success for the vast majority of patients who undergo the procedure, with only 9% of donor tissue rejecting after the first year. When the donor cornea rejects, a secondary treatment can be performed to restore your vision and eye health. It's essential to attend each and every follow-up appointment so we can make sure your eye health has improved and that you're healing well.
  • DMEK:
    Patients who receive DMEK corneal transplant surgery will often achieve 20/25 vision during the first six months post-op. The majority of men and women who receive DMEK at Vance Thompson Vision notice an improvement to their vision after just 1 – 2 months, with their best results developing in the months afterward. Although rejection could occur, surveys have shown that the rate of donor tissue rejection in patients who undergo DMEK is less than 1%. When you receive corneal transplant surgery, whether DMEK, DSEK, or PK, you will need to attend each follow-up appointment so we can monitor your condition throughout the recovery period.
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Procedure Information

Recovery Time  
1 year
Procedure Time  
1.5 hours
Follow Up Time  
1 day, 1 week, 1 month
Recovery Location  
Home
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Discover Your Options

Cornea transplant surgery is a diverse and effective treatment that offers incredibly high success rates and efficiently treats a range of corneal diseases and disorders. At Vance Thompson Vision, we utilize the industry's leading technology to carry out precise techniques, such as DSEK, DMEK, and PK. If you've experienced a decrease in your vision quality, we urge you to seek relief by scheduling a one-on-one consultation with one of our board-certified or board-eligible eye doctors in Billings, MT.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.