A corneal transplant is surgery to replace the clear surface on the front of the eye (the cornea).
Most corneal transplants are done while you are awake. The health care provider will use a local anesthetic so you do not feel any pain during surgery. You may be given a sedative to reduce anxiety.
The tissue for the corneal transplant is taken from a recently dead person whose family agreed to donate it.
The most common type of corneal transplant is called penetrating keratoplasty. During this procedure, the surgeon removes a small circle-sized piece of your cornea. The donated cornea is stitched onto the opening in your eye. Your doctor will remove the stitches at a follow-up visit.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Corneal transplantation is recommended for persons who have:
- Thinning of the cornea that causes vision problems (keratoconus)
- Scarring of the cornea from severe infections or injuries
- Cloudiness of the cornea that causes vision loss (Fuchs dystrophy)
Sometimes, the body rejects the transplanted tissue. This occurs in a small number of patients.
Other risks for a corneal transplant include:
- Infection of the eye
- Swelling of the front of the eye
The risks for any anesthesia are:
- Reactions to medications
- Breathing problems
The risks for any surgery are:
- Bleeding, but this is a rare complication since the cornea normally has no blood vessels
Full visual recovery may take up to 1 year. Most patients with successful corneal transplants will enjoy good vision for many years.
Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms. They may be signs of a complication.
- Decreased vision
- Flashes of light or floaters in the eye
- Light sensitivity
- Redness of the eye that gets worse
Your doctor will give you an eye patch to wear for a short period of time. This protects the new cornea from injury. Carefully follow your doctor's instructions regarding eye drops after surgery, which may prevent rejection.