OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Thomas Harvey, MD

Diseased Corneas Nearly "Bionic" Prosthesis is an Option

Thomas Harvey, MD
Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic
Eau Claire

The majority of the eye’s focusing power comes from the cornea, the clear dome-like structure in front of the iris. The cornea only works well when it is transparent and surrounded by a healthy environment (i.e. normal tear film and eyelid structures).

If the cornea is ever damaged, surgery is sometimes required to restore sight. Routinely, cornea transplants are the first option to correct the problem, succeeding better than 80% of the time. But what can be done if a cornea transplant fails?

An artificial cornea, known as a keratoprosthesis, is one solution (Fig. 1). A keratoprosthesis is a plastic device that is placed in the middle of the cornea to focus light for useable vision. The most popular artificial cornea is called the Boston Keratoprosthesis, named after the city where it was developed (Fig. 2). Although FDA approved more than fifteen years ago, recent modifications have made its use skyrocket. Local and international success has been extremely encouraging for those with severe cornea problems.

While no one with healthy corneas can have the Boston Keratoprosthesis, it is becoming a mainstay surgical option for those with diseased corneas. Surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with recovery of vision typically taking days to weeks. Immediately after surgery, care must be taken to avoid strenuous activity, swimming, and dirty, dusty surroundings.

There are several important considerations for the Boston Keratoprosthesis:
  • It looks like a bionic eye
  • It is surrounded by a donated cornea that is sewn to the eyeball
  • It requires many, many visits to a cornea specialist
  • It is routinely covered by a soft contact lens
  • It carries a risk of infection, expulsion and glaucoma (among others)
  • It necessitates lifelong antibiotic eye drops

To see an intra-operative photo of the Boston Keratoprosthesis, you can visit Dr. Harvey’s site. To learn more about cornea surgery or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Harvey, feel free to go to the Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic website or call 715.834.8471.

Dr. Harvey – Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715.834.8471 | cv-eye.com
Dr. Harvey sees patients in Eau Claire, Menomonie and Neillsville.