How Long Does a Cornea Transplant Last

The question, How long does a cornea transplant last, is one of the first you should ask if you are a candidate for a corneal graft. Corneal transplants don’t last forever. Many fail due to rejection. Others deteriorate over time.

Some fall victim to the same disease or same cause that damaged the natural corneas. How long a cornea transplant lasts depends a lot on what makes you a candidate for cornea transplant in the first place.

Research study outcomes indicate that matching the blood types (ABO) compatibility between donor and recipient may be a significant factor in reducing rejection of corneal transplant.

The closer the match, the less likely rejection will take place. In a study reported in 1992 researchers found that the ABO blood type compatibility was significant in improving patient outcomes.

It also found that matching tissue types had no significant effect on the success or failure of corneal grafts. However, this study also proposed the possibility that higher doses of steroids may have significantly improved the outcomes.

High risk patients historically have a 50% corneal graft survival rate at three years. The 1992 study showed an increase to 65% success at three years. Again, this study tested the success of ABO blood-type matching against HLA antigen (tissue) matching, and used higher doses of steroids as well.

The range of success for corneal transplants is from as much as to 95% for diseases such as keratoconus, down to as low as 5% for injuries such as chemical burns.

Other research offers hope for stimulating the division of donor stem cells from the corneal periphery. If successful, this could help generate natural tissue growth that improves healing and lowers the failure and rejection rates associated with corneal transplants.

This tissue has potential to replace the clear corneal tissue that was damaged or removed. Chemical corneal burns have shown good results from stem cell implants.

Improvements to conventional corneal transplants include methods called Descemet's Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK), deep Lamellar Endothelial Keratoplasty (DLEK) and Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK).

These procedures replace only thin portions of the cornea. They have shown promise with shorter recovery and healing periods and good results.

As with all new procedures, long-term statistics are not yet available for the newer procedures. But, so far, the expectations for improved outcomes are high.

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