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Home > Services > Eye Care > Eye Conditions & Treatments > Corneal Transplant

Corneal Transplant

The cornea is the clear, outer surface on the front of the eye. Corneal transplant is a surgical procedure used to replace a portion of a diseased or damaged cornea with a healthy one to correct vision problems caused by infections, injuries or medical conditions effecting the cornea.

It's often recommended for the following:

  • Keratoconus — a thinning and bulging of the cornea that causes blurred vision
  • A cornea scarred from infection or injury
  • Clouding of the cornea
  • Complications of previous eye surgery

Possible Complications  

Potential complications include:

  • Rejection of the new cornea — The body’s defense system attacks the new tissue, damaging it.
  • Glaucoma
  • Problems focusing
  • Swelling or detachment of the retina
  • Cataract
  • Infection
  • Bleeding

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity

The operation is most successful for those who have the following:

  • Keratoconus
  • Corneal scars

It is less successful for those who have corneal infection and severe injury, like a chemical burn.

What Should I Expect? 

Prior to Procedure

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home.
  • Arrange for help at home after the procedure.
  • Use any eye drops as instructed by your eye surgeon.
  • The day before, do not eat or drink anything after midnight unless told otherwise by your doctor.

Description of Procedure 

The procedure will be done under a surgical microscope. The damaged part of the cornea will be cut out. The new cornea will then be placed in the opening and fastened with very fine stitches. A patch and shield will be put over the eye.

There is another technique called Descemet's stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK). DSEK is used for some types of cornea transplants. It may result in shorter recovery time and better vision. With this technique, the doctor removes a much smaller part of the cornea, compared with older procedures.

It will take about 1-2 hours and anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications. You will most likely go home after a few hours in the recovery area.

Post-procedure Care 

Recovery at home includes pain management and avoiding certain activities until the eye heals. Other recovery steps may include:

  • Using eye drops
  • Wearing glasses during the day or a shield at night
  • Not rubbing the eye
  • Protecting the eye from accidental bumps or pokes
  • Avoiding contact sports

Vision may initially be worse than before your surgery before your eye adjusts to the new cornea. It may take several months for it to improve. Stitches are usually left in place for several months. Regular follow-up visits will allow the doctor to monitor how the eye is healing.

Call Your Doctor 

If any of the following occur, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Vision symptoms, including decreased vision, floaters, flashing lights, increased light sensitivity or loss of peripheral vision
  • Increased eye redness
  • Increased pain
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting


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