This is a surgical procedure used to replace a portion of a diseased or damaged cornea with a healthy one. The cornea is the clear, outer surface on the front of the eye. The surgery is done by an ophthalmologist, a doctor who specializes in treating eye problems.
A corneal transplant can correct vision problems caused by infections, injuries, or medical conditions. It is often recommended for the following:
Most people who undergo a corneal transplant enjoy improved vision for many years, or even a lifetime. It can take up to a year for vision to stabilize after surgery. Most people still need to wear glasses or contacts.
The procedure is highly successful. Severe complications are rare. If you are planning to have a corneal transplant, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
The operation is most successful for patients who have the following:
It is less successful for those who have corneal infection and severe injury, like a chemical burn.
Your ophthalmologist may do the following:
Before the procedure:
Two types of anesthesia can be used during a corneal transplant:
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. The new cornea will be fastened with very fine stitches. Finally, a patch and shield will be put over the eye.
There is a newer 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. DSEK is not widely available yet in the US, but it is becoming more popular.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may have slight soreness for a few days after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medicine to help with the pain.
You will most likely go home after a few hours in the recovery area.
After you leave the hospital, you should rest for the remainder of the day. When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Your eye will be checked several times during the following weeks and months. Stitches are usually left in place for at least several months.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Eye Bank Association of America
The National Keratoconus Foundation
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
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Retinal detachment. SUNY State College of Optometry website. Available at: http://www.sunyopt.... Accessed September 8, 2005.
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Last reviewed [Under Medical Review] by Eric L. Berman, MD
Last Updated: 02/28/2012