How Much Does a Corneal Transplant Cost?
A corneal transplant is the process of replacing a damaged cornea in someone’s eye. A cornea is the round clear part located at the front of the eye. It is responsible for transmitting light into the eye so that we can see things. A damaged cornea results in blurred or glared vision since scars or swelling causes light to be scattered as it enters the eye.
When this happens, a corneal transplant or penetrating keratoplasty or corneal graft, is recommended to replace the damaged or infected cornea with the healthy cornea from a human donor. Corneal transplantation is one of the most commonly performed transplant surgery and has a very high success rate. Last year, more than 40,000 patients in the United States availed of the quick and painless procedure. The cost is usually covered in part by Medicare and health insurers, with copay by the patient for a certain amount that is imposed by the insurer. The healthy cornea must be strictly a donation as buying or selling human tissue is prohibited.
How much does it cost?
- Corneal transplant can be done using two techniques. The old technique uses a manual hand held blade, which is much cheaper. The new technique uses a laser and is much more efficient, but also more epensive.
- According to Surgicalservicesinternational.com, a manual corneal transplant can cost around $11,000 on the average in the US, but in their clinic it can only cost from $3,690 or around $100 per month if the patient chooses to finance their surgery. In order to get this low price, however, you will have to go overseas to have the procedure done.
- Dr. Jay Bradley answers on Healthtap.com that without insurance a corneal transplant could cost from $12,000 to $14,000 including the surgical center, surgeon and tissue costs.
- In the end, after all physician services, facility and anesthesia fees, it is best to budget at least $7,600 to $15,000 for the procedure without any insurance.
- Health insurance carriers should check with their provider to see what is going to be covered. Depending on your policy, you will be responsible for your co-pay and deductible. For those that do not have health insurance, consider finding a policy using tools such as eHealthInsurance.com.
What is going to be included?
- Before the surgery even begins, the patient will have to meet with an ophthalmologist weeks ahead of time. During the exam, the ophthalmologist will determine if the patient is a suitable candidate for the procedure. After all the risks have been discussed and assessed, a surgery date will be set.
- Plastic surgeons fee, anesthesiologist’s fee, hospital charges, medication charges and implant costs are combined.
- During the procedure, the damaged or disease cornea will be replaced in its entirety by a donated corneal tissue. This donated tissue will generally come from a deceased individual with no known diseases.
Types of procedures:
- Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty. The layers of the central cornea are replaced with the donor tissue. With this procedure, the Descemets membrane is left in place.
- Endothelial Keratoplasty. This is a newer procedure that can allow the patient to see clearly within weeks rather than having to wait a full year. Instead of using a thickness corneal transplant, the procedure is done with little to no sutures.
- Lamellar keratoplasty. While leaving healthy layers in place, the ophthalmologist will selectively replace diseased layers.
- Penetrating keratoplasty. Using a cutting device, the donated cornea will replace the circular part of the cornea. The tissue will then be sewn with the sutures.
What are the extra costs?
- The eye bank donor bills a service fee that comes with screening tests on the donor for possible transferable diseases and the technician’s services. However, insurance companies usually include this in their coverage.
- Diagnostic procedures medical supplies, or equipment used for screening purposes performed before actual transplant are additional costs.
- An initial exam before the surgery begins can be an additional charge of $100 to $200.
- If complications do occur, additional nights at the hospital can reach as high as $500 to $1,000 per night.
Factors that influence the price:
- Fees in the U.S. vary according to location and specific patient needs.
- Surgeon’s fee makes up for a big part of the cost and could greatly vary.
- Medical facilities are also a factor in the total price, whether it is to be performed in the hospital, doctor’s office, or ambulatory clinic.
- If insured, expense will depend on your plan availed and its inclusions.
- The cost of corneal transplant procedures depends on the extent of work to be done, such as how many layers are affected by the damage.
Tips to know:
- Medicaid usually only cover the older method of corneal transplant in full. If the newer laser therapy is preferred by the patient, only a cost of the procedure is covered.
- Medicare Part B shoulders 80% of all costs.
- There is never any charge for donated eye tissue. Only the surgical facility or hospital where the operation is performed is to be paid.
Questions to ask
- Do I have to meet certain medical criteria to receive a donated cornea?
- How long will recovery take?
- What complications can occur with a cornea transplant?
How can I save money?
- Some hospitals and medical clinics offer to reduce or waive all fees for patients who are not covered with medical insurance coverage and cannot afford corneal transplantation procedures. To find out more about this, consult with the local hospital or clinic to see what kind of financing options are available.