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What is keratoplasty eye surgery?

Automated lamellar keratoplasty eye surgery, or ALK, is a surgical procedure used to correct vision in people with severe nearsightedness and mild degrees of farsightedness.

What Happens During Keratoplasty Eye Surgery?

Keratoplasty eye surgery, performed under local anesthesia, usually takes less than an hour to complete. A cutting device is used to make a small incomplete flap across the cornea. While still attached at one side, the corneal flap is folded back to reveal the layer of tissue below. Another, very precise cut is made on the sub layer of tissue based on the person's glasses' prescription. After this cut, the corneal flap is placed back over the eye where it reattaches.

What Are the Advantages of Keratoplasty Eye Surgery?

Compared to other vision repair surgeries:

  • The healing process for keratoplasty eye surgery is relatively quick
  • It takes less time for stable vision to return
  • Recovery period is more comfortable

What Are the Disadvantages of Keratoplasty Eye Surgery?

While keratoplasty eye surgery is a safe and effective surgery, it does have its disadvantages. They include:

  • For people with mild to moderate nearsightedness, keratoplasty eye surgery is not as accurate as other eye procedures, meaning that its outcome is more difficult to predict.
  • Keratoplasty eye surgery slightly increases a person's risk of developing an irregular astigmatism.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of Keratoplasty Eye Surgery?

Aside from the above-mentioned disadvantages, side effects, though rare, do occur. These may include:

  • Glare
  • Inability to wear contacts, sometimes permanently
  • Infection
  • Corneal scarring
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How Should I Prepare for Keratoplasty Eye Surgery?

Before your keratoplasty eye surgery you will have met with a coordinator who will discuss with you what you should expect during and after the surgery. During this session your medical history will be evaluated and your eyes will be tested. Likely tests will include measuring corneal thickness, refraction, and pupil dilation. Once you have gone through your evaluation, you will meet the surgeon, who will answer any further questions you may have. Afterwards, you can schedule an appointment for the keratoplasty eye surgery.

If you wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses, you should not wear them during the three weeks before keratoplasty eye surgery. Other types of contact lenses shouldn't be worn for at least three days prior to keratoplasty eye surgery. Be sure to bring your glasses to the surgery so your prescription can be reviewed.

On the day of your keratoplasty eye surgery, eat a light meal before going to the doctor and take all of your prescribed medications. Do not wear eye makeup or have any bulky accessories in your hair that will interfere with positioning your head under the laser. If you do not feel well that morning, call the doctor's office to determine whether the keratoplasty eye surgery needs to be postponed.

What Should I Expect After Keratoplasty Eye Surgery?

The healing time from keratoplasty eye surgery is very rapid. It usually takes only about 24 hours to mend. But it may take a few weeks for your vision to finally stabilize.

Your doctor will give you eye drops to control inflammation, discomfort, and prevent infection.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.




Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, October 2004.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005

Last Editorial Review: 6/30/2005

Reviewed on 6/30/2005
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