Skip Navigation
Search Menu

Wilmer Eye Institute
Print This Page
Share this page: More

Medical and Surgical Management


There currently is no cure for Fuchs' Dystrophy.  In early stages of the disease, vision may be improved with a 5% salt solution.  However, there is no treatment that can actually halt or reverse the course of the disease.  Eventually, in some patients with Fuchs’ dystrophy, surgery may be necessary.  The two options currently available are: Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK) and Descemet’s Stripping with Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK).

Scheduling Surgery / Obtaining a Cornea

A donor cornea is needed for both types of surgeries—Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK) and Descemet’s Stripping with Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK). 

Once the patient has decided to undergo surgery, the patient's name is entered into a database maintained by the local eye bank.  Because of the highly efficient network of eye banks, surgery can be scheduled electively.  Corneas are always tested for hepatitis, AIDS, and many other diseases before being approved for use. 

Corneal Transplant (Penetrating Keratoplasty)

corneal transplant

First, the patient's cornea is carefully removed.  Then the healthy donor cornea is sewn into place.  Other necessary surgery, such as cataract removal, may also completed while the patient is in the operating room.  Corneal transplants usually take only an hour and are performed on an outpatient basis typically with local anesthesia.  The ophthalmologist will decide when it is safe to remove the stitches—typically eighteen months or two years after surgery.

video of corneal transplantVideo of Corneal Transplant

Descemet’s Stripping with Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK)

This is a relatively new procedure.  Instead of replacing the entire cornea, only the back half—the endothelium and Decemet’s membrane—of the cornea is replaced.  There are both advantages to both DSEK and penetrating transplants, which your ophthalmologist should discuss with you prior to surgery.

The DSEK operation involves surgically removing Descemet’s membrane and the endothelium from the patient’s cornea.  An incision is made in the patient’s eye, and the back half of a donor cornea (Descemet’s membrane plus endothelium) is inserted into the eye.  By manipulating the donor cornea in special ways, the surgeon can firmly attach the donor cornea to the patient’s cornea within a few minutes without the use of stitches (sutures).

video of corneal transplantVideo of DSEK Procedure

Advantages of DSEK over PK include:

  • Lack of sutures.
  • Less chance of astigmatism.
  • Decreased healing time. 
  • Decreased risk of infection. 
  • Decreased risk of rupture.
  • Prevention
  • Treatment
  • When to call your doctor
  • Prognosis
  • Additional information

Disadvantages include: 

  • Final vision may not be as clear as with a PK.
  • Greater chance of early post-operative complications.

> Make an appointment with a corneal specialist at the Wilmer Eye Institute.

Sanford Greenberg Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Gehlbach Project Selected by Johns Hopkins-Coulter Translational Project Partnership- 06/23/16

Dr. Neil Bressler Speaks at Senate Briefing on Special Diabetes Program- 06/09/16

Dr. Neil Bressler Discusses Blue Light Effects on the Eyes in the Washington Post- 06/02/16

Dr. Arevalo Honored by National Institute of Ophthalmology in Peru- 5/31/16

Dr. Jennifer Thorne Appointed President-elect of American Uveitis Society- 5/17/16

Dr. Ingrid Zimmer-Galler Elected to the ATA College of Fellows- 5/13/16

Dr. Arevalo Launches New Book at ARVO 2016- 5/09/16

Dr. Elia J. Duh is elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation- 4/28/16

Dr. Maria Valeria Canto Soler Wins BrightFocus Award for Macular Degeneration Research- 4/27/16

Three Wilmer Faculty Voted Most Influential in Field of Ophthalmology- 4/22/2016

Dr. Pradeep Ramulu Wins Pisart Award for Significant Achievement in Vision Science Research- 4/21/16

Dr. Eghrari Receives Alcon Early Career Research Award- 4/13/16

Dr. Quigley Honored by American Glaucoma Society- 4/11/16

Dr. Ian Pitha Awarded Grants for Glaucoma Research- 4/11/16