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Cornea Transplant Alternative for Keratoconus

Keratoconus is an uncommon condition in which the normally round cornea becomes thin and develops a cone-like bulge. In the early stages vision can be corrected with eyeglasses. As the condition progresses, rigid contact lenses may be needed to provide the best vision. In the past, when a patient was no longer able to tolerate contact lenses, a corneal transplant may have been recommended. That is no longer the case.

Anjali K. Pathak, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of the Refractive Surgery Center at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, is one of the specialists in the region using a new FDA approved treatment called Intacs® corneal implant. This procedure involves placement of two plastic rings within the periphery of the cornea to improve vision and reduce distortion. These ring segments, which can be removed or exchanged, maintain a more natural corneal shape and may serve as an intermediate step between contact lenses and corneal transplantation.

“The purpose is to enable the patient to return to contact lenses or glasses with good vision,” Pathak says. “In some patients, Intacs® may stabilize the cornea and prevent them from ever needing transplant. In others, it may delay the progression for several years.”
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