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Recent advances and anaesthetic considerations in corneal transplantation

Department of Anaesthetics, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales


Significant surgical advances have been made recently in corneal transplantation. Penetrating keratoplasty was the dominant method from 1905, until selective lamellar keratoplasty emerged as the preferred technique over the last 20 years. Advanced techniques such as corneal limbal stem cell transplant and keratoprosthesis are also available. The major surgical complications of corneal transplantation are extrusion of ocular content and expulsive choroidal haemorrhage. It is essential for an ophthalmic anaesthetist to have a good understanding of these new surgical procedures so as to provide optimal surgical conditions. This article aims to inform anaesthetists about the recent surgical advances in corneal transplantation and explore the anaesthetic considerations of these new techniques. General anaesthesia remains suitable for a wide range of these procedures especially in repeat surgery, difficult, or prolonged procedures. Regional ophthalmic blocks are ideal for endothelial keratoplasty but can be used in penetrating keratoplasty based on individual risk–benefit assessment, and as a supplement to general anaesthesia. Topical anaesthesia provides an alternative when general anaesthesia and ophthalmic regional blocks are less desirable but overall its use is limited.

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