San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Region’s First Artificial Cornea Transplant Planned

A Costa Rican will be the first Central American to receive an artificial cornea transplant next week, when doctors here perform an operation previously done only in Australia, the United States and Europe.

Ophthalmologist Claudio Orlich will be the first doctor in Costa Rica to perform the surgery, which was carried out for the first time four years ago in Australia and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) two years ago.

An artificial cornea transplant is an option for patients who show a high risk of rejecting a human cornea transplant, Orlich explained.

The artificial cornea is a disk made of a special type of acrylic biocompatible with the eye invented by Australian scientists, who so far have had excellent results with the surgery.

The cornea is the eye’s primary lens. It is transparent, located in front of the iris, and responsible for 75% of vision. An estimated 15 million people in the world are blind because of diseases of the cornea.

In Costa Rica, about 150 human cornea transplants are performed each year, and 100,000 are performed worldwide.

The artificial cornea transplant operation is relatively simple, Orlich explained; the patient can return to his or her home the same day.

The artificial cornea, manufactured by the Australian company CooperVision Surgical, costs $3,000 in Latin America and $7,000 in Europe and the United States.

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