Griffin Hospital Offers Breakthrough Cornea Transplant Surgery

Griffin Hospital serves more than 130,000 people in the Lower Naugatuck Valley Region. Not only do they offer patient-centric care, but they also offer state of the art procedures like the DMEK cornea transplant. 

“My vision was very very cloudy,” recalled Gene Walsh. “It was like in a fog. I couldn’t really function very well.”

After struggling for months to see, the 72-year-old gene met with Lorenzo Cervantes, M.D., a cornea specialist at Griffin Hospital. He diagnosed Walsh with an eye disease called Fuchs’ dystrophy.

“The innermost layer of the cornea is made up of a single layer of cells whose job is to keep the cornea clear,” Dr. Cervantes explained. 

But the disease causes that layer to swell, leading to cloudiness and discomfort.

“More than 15 years ago when people had problems with the cornea, we only had one treatment, which was to transplant the entire thickness of the cornea,” Dr. Cervantes said.

Then came DSAEK (Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty).

“What took two years to heal could now heal in three to six months,” Dr. Cervantes said of the advancement.

Today the procedure has been refined even further and is called DMEK.

“DMEK is short for Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty,” Dr. Cervantes said. “That’s a fancy term which means that we’re just transplanting the back layer of the cornea by itself.”

The diseased part of the cornea is removed through a small incision. Then a healthy cornea from a donor is transplanted back into the eye.

“Now that transplant can provide even sharper vision, a better chance of acquiring 20/20 vision, the chance of rejection dropping from five percent to about one percent over a patient’s lifetime, and even faster visual recovery to about one to three months,” Dr. Cervantes explained.

“My vision is drastically better now than it was before,” Walsh said. “It’s sharp. The contrast is incredible.”

And Wash is thankful to see the road ahead.

“I’m older and I’m still working and when my vision was getting cloudy, I’m thinking, ‘Well I’m going to have to step away here,’” he said. “I don’t have to do that. I can function better in every aspect of my life.”

Walsh’s son passed away several years ago and his organs were donated, so he says he feels like things have come full circle, and he’s extremely grateful for his cornea donor. To learn more about DMEK, visit GriffinHealth.org.

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