A corneal transplant, also known as a

corneal graft, keratoplasty or penetrating keratoplasty,

involves the replacement of the central portion of a diseased or scarred cornea with a clear, healthy donor cornea from an eye bank. Corneal transplant surgery is the most successful of all tissue transplants. More than 40,000 corneal transplants are performed in the United States each year.

Corneal transplants are done to improve vision, relieve pain, and protect the inner structures of the eye. Corneal dystrophy, corneal scars and other disease processes are the most common reasons for transplantation. The donor cornea comes from a person who has recently died. The tissue is screened carefully to rule out any disease that might be transmitted to the recipient.

Surgery is done on an outpatient bases. The diseased or injured cornea is carefully removed from the eye. Any necessary additional work within the eye, such as removal of a cataract, is completed. Then the clear donor cornea is sewn into place. When the operation is over, the doctor will place a shield over the eye.

For the first three weeks your vision will be blurry and you have to avoid bending or lifting. A shield should be worn while sleeping to avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye. Eye drops, including antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drops will be used for several months. Depending on the health of the eye and the rate of healing, sutures are removed starting three months post-operatively. Usually, it takes six months to a year to achieve good vision, and in some cases may require contact lens wear or refractive surgery to eliminate residual astigmatism.

What Conditions May Require a Transplant?

  • Corneal failure after eye surgery, such as cataract or glaucoma surgery.
  • Hereditary corneal failure, such as Fuchs’ Dystrophy
  • Scarring after infections, especially herpes
  • Rejection after a failed corneal transplant
  • Scarring after injury
  • Keratoconus, a steepening of the cornea causing high astigmatism