The cornea is the clear surface on the front of the eye. A corneal transplant is surgery to replace the cornea with tissue from a donor. It is one of the most common transplants done.
Keratoplasty; Penetrating keratoplasty
You will probably be awake during the transplant. Local anesthesia (numbing medicine) will be injected into your eye to block pain. You may receive a sedative to help you relax.
The tissue for your corneal transplant will come from a person who has died recently who agreed to donate their tissue.
The most common type of corneal transplant is called “penetrating keratoplasty.” During this procedure, your surgeon will remove a small round piece of your cornea. Then your surgeon will sew the donated cornea onto the opening of your eye. Your doctor will remove the stitches at a follow-up visit.
Corneal transplantation is recommended for people who have:
- Vision problems caused by thinning of the cornea. This is called keratoconus.
- Scarring of the cornea from severe infections or injuries.
- Vision loss caused by cloudiness of the cornea. This is called Fuchs’ dystrophy.
Sometimes, the body rejects the transplanted tissue. This occurs in a small number of patients.
Other risks for a corneal transplant are:
- Infection of the eye
Glaucoma (high pressure in the eye that can cause vision loss)
- Swelling of the front of the eye
The risks for any anesthesia are:
Tell your doctor about any medical conditions you may have. Also tell you doctor what medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, and herbs you bought without a prescription.
You may need to limit medicines that make it hard for your blood to clot for 10 days before the surgery. Some of these are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and warfarin (Coumadin).
You may take your other daily medicines the morning of your surgery. But check with your doctor if you take diuretics (water pills) or insulin or pills for diabetes.
You will need to stop eating and drinking most fluids after midnight the night before your surgery. You can have water, apple juice, and plain coffee or tea (without cream or sugar) up to 2 hours before surgery. Do not drink alcohol 24 hours before or after surgery.
On the day of your surgery, wear loose, comfortable clothing. Do not wear any jewelry. Do not put creams, lotions or makeup on your face or around your eyes.
You will need to have someone drive you home after your surgery.
You will go home on the same day as your surgery. Your doctor will give you an eye patch to wear for about 1 to 4 days.
Full recovery of eyesight may take up to a year. Most patients who have successful corneal transplants will enjoy good vision for many years. But, if you have other eye problems, those problems may still reduce your eyesight.
Yanoff M, Duker JS, Augsburger JJ, et al. Ophthalmology. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004:204-209.
Bahar I, Kaiserman I, Srinivasan S, Ya-Ping J, Slomovic AR, Rootman DS. Comparison of Three Different Techniques of Corneal Transplantation for Keratoconus. American Journal of Ophthalmology. December 2008;146(6).
Review Date: 2/17/2009
Reviewed By: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle , WA . Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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