DISCLAIMER! The information on this website is general information. Please discuss with your surgical provider your concerns and questions about the procedure. Your personal health information may differ from the information presented here.
Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK) is a surgical replacement of the entire thickness of the cornea. It is the oldest form of corneal transplantation and is still the treatment of choice when someone has a condition that affects all layers of the cornea. Common diseases that are treated with penetrating keratoplasty are severe cases of keratoconus, deep corneal scars, severe corneal infections, corneal melts with perforation, and other forms of corneal disease in which a selective transplant is not possible due to technical challenges. The procedure involves careful measurement of the affected portion of the cornea, removal of the patient’s cornea with a trephine, and replacement with a precisely-cut donor cornea. The new cornea is sutured in place with very fine surgical suture and adjusted to minimize astigmatism and irregularity. After surgery, patients have a patch over the eye overnight and have no specific positioning requirements. The patch is removed in the office the next day and the eye is examined by the surgeon for signs of healing. Full vision recovery takes 9-15 months for most patients. As the cornea recovers, sutures are removed as needed and a new pair of spectacles or a contact lens can be fitted to provide sharper vision. It is very important to protect the eye after a penetrating keratoplasty because there is risk of damage with any kind of direct blow to the eye or face. Steroid drops are often taken for 1 year or longer to prevent corneal transplant rejection. We ask all patients to be vigilant with regard to the symptoms of corneal transplant rejection, which can be remembered with the mnemonic “RSVP” Redness, Sensitivity to light, decreased Vision, and Pain.