On January 2, 2014, Ophthalmologist Gabriel Schaab, MD, performed the first partial thickness corneal transplant ever done in Monroe.
This procedure is performed replacing certain layers of diseased or scarred cornea tissue with healthy tissue from a donor. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped surface covering the front of the eye. If it is scared or clouded, light cannot reach the retina, resulting in poor vision or blindness.
The Evolution of the Corneal Transplant
Corneal transplants have been routinely preformed since the 1960s, and it's the second-most common transplant after blood transfusion. Since then, more than 1,000,000 Americans, from infants to the elderly, have experienced vision restoration.
Unlike other transplants, corneal transplants do not require matching cell markers or blood types between the donor and recipient, which helps simplify the process.
In recent years there have been tremendous advances in corneal transplants. Partial thickness transplants, which replace only certain layers of the cornea, have improved rejection rates, recovery times and patient outcomes. The partial thickness corneal transplant is also known s as Descemets Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK). However, not everyone is a candidate for DSAEK, as those with previous trauma or infections leaving large corneal scars may instead benefit from a full thickness transplant.
The Generosity of Many
While the gift of restored visions begins with fulfilling a donor's wishes, the generosity doesn't stop there. The only eye bank in Wisconsin is the Lion's Eye Bank in Madison. Not only do the Lions support the eye bank financially, but members personally volunteer their time and fuel to transport the corneas throughout the entire state, as well as supply tissue to patients in Rockford, Ill.
Offering Local Support
Ophthalmologist Gabriel Schaab, MD, came to Monroe Clinic in 2013 with experience in corneal transplant, and he works closely with all members of Monroe Clinic's newly expanded eye care team to offer patients comprehensive and specialized eye care services in their community.
"There are two classic groups of candidates for DSAEK surgery. The first group is made up of patients who have had cataract surgeries and don't clear their swelling after surgery or develop swelling down the road. The second group of patients have Fuchs Dystrophy, which is a genetic predisposition to having lower cell counts despite having no prior surgeries in their eyes. These patients can develop swelling in the cornea over time," said Dr. Schaab. "It's very rewarding to offer patients this treatment option in a familiar, comfortable environment. It's even more rewarding to witness their joy as they reacquaint themselves with a life that includes restored vision."
Monroe Clinic's eye care providers now see patients in Freeport, Monroe and New Glarus. For more information, visit monroeclinic.org/eyecare.