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(traditional full thickness transplant)
A standard full thickness transplant involves the surgical removal of the central two-thirds of the damaged cornea (Figure 1). This area is replaced with clear, healthy donor tissue, which is held in place by sutures.
Visual recovery often takes a year or longer. Sometimes the corneal surface is somewhat irregular so a contact lens may be required for the clearest vision.
The first successful human corneal transplant was performed in 1905 in the present day Czech Republic. Since then cornea transplants have become the most common and most successful form of solid tissue transplant.
Dr. Price has long-term graft survival rates that are among the highest in the world (Reference). On average, his full thickness cornea transplants survive 10 years or longer in 8 out of 10 patients, and his graft survival rates are even higher for keratoconus patients, who have a 95% 10-year survival rate, and Fuchs’ dystrophy patients, who have a 90% 10-year survival rate.
Patients with a full thickness graft must be careful for the rest of their lives to avoid any injury that could break open the incision.
Newer types of transplants, such as endothelial keratoplasty and anterior lamellar keratoplasty, selectively replace only diseased layers of the cornea and leave healthy areas intact. These targeted techniques provide faster healing, require fewer activity restrictions, and reduce the risk of later injury to the eye.
The Cornea Research Foundation of America houses the largest cornea transplant database in the Western Hemisphere, including information on over 4,000 penetrating keratoplasty procedures. This has given us many insights into how to improve transplant outcomes. For more information, please click here: penetrating keratoplasty outcomes.