Corneal Transplant

Henry Ford offers both full and partial corneal transplants, including DALK and DSEK.

Corneal transplant, also known as corneal grafting, is a procedure where the diseased portion of the cornea, the clear outer layer of your eye, is removed and replaced with a donor cornea – or a portion of one.

Who needs a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is a major surgery typically reserved for those patients whose vision cannot be improved through eyeglasses, contact lenses or other corneal treatments. Our ophthalmic surgeons are experienced in both the traditional full corneal transplant, as well as two advanced partial corneal transplant procedures. The specific type of transplant needed is based on several factors, including past medical history and the underlying cause of the cornea damage. With any corneal transplant, the goal is to fix only the part of the cornea that is damaged.

Full corneal transplant (PKP)

In a full corneal transplant, known as a penetrating keratoplasty (PKP), all layers of the cornea, including the innermost layer known as the endothelium, are removed from the patient’s eye and replaced with a full cornea from a donor eye. This procedure is for:

  • Patients whose whole cornea is damaged
  • Patients who have certain other eye diseases, past surgical procedures, scarring or extreme thinning, which can make a partial corneal transplant too difficult or risky

Full corneal transplant has a long track record of success, although there are increased risks when compared to partial transplants, including infection and rejection of the corneal transplant by the body.

DALK (partial corneal transplant)

Some corneal diseases cause damage only to the front layers of the cornea, called the stroma. Examples of these conditions include:

  • Corneal scarring from trauma or infection
  • Keratoconus
  • Viral infections

In these cases, a type of partial corneal transplant known as a deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK) may be done that replaces just these outer layers, leaving the patient’s existing endothelium intact. DALK features several potential advantages over traditional PK, including:

  • Retention of patient’s endothelium
  • Reduced risk of transplant rejection
  • Lower risk of glaucoma formation
  • Lower risk of cataract formation

DSEK (partial corneal transplant)

Some corneal conditions cause damage just to the endothelium, leaving the outer layers intact. These include Fuchs’ dystrophy and damage to the inner cornea caused by previous eye surgery. In these cases, a partial corneal transplant known as a Descemet’s stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK), can be done that only replaces the inner corneal layer. Advantages of this procedure over a full corneal transplant include:

  • Less risk of complications
  • Faster healing time
  • Quicker vision recovery
  • Less discomfort

At Henry Ford, patients come first.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is committed to providing our patients with compassionate, personalized care. We feature the most advanced treatments in eye care and are dedicated to vision research – always staying at the forefront of innovation. A leader in Michigan, as well as one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, we treat more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it.

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