Each year, our physicians manage nearly 220,000 clinical visits and perform more than 10,000 surgeries — volumes among the highest in the nation. Care is delivered using state-of-the-art equipment that demonstrates our commitment to putting patients first.

We know that learning about the corneal transplantation process and how to care for your eye health may be overwhelming at first. But remember, you can learn a little each day.

We understand that you are both excited and nervous about your transplant; these are normal reactions. Being prepared in advance by learning and understanding what to expect will help ease your fear of the unknown.

Always discuss your questions and expectations about the transplantation with your healthcare providers.

What happens in a corneal transplantation operation?

Corneal transplantation can be done under general anesthesia; that is, with the patient “asleep.” Local anesthetic, in which the patient is awake but does not feel the procedure, also can be used.

A portion of the cornea is removed using scissors and a special instrument called a trephine, which works something like a tiny circular cookie-cutter. This leaves an opening in the patient's cornea.

A similarly sized trephine is used to cut a section from the donor cornea. This section of corneal tissue is placed into the opening in the patient's cornea and fastened with very small stitches.  Many patients qualify for a partial-thickness corneal transplant procedure called DSAEK (Descemet's stripping with automated endothelial keratoplasty) tailored to particular corneal disorders. This procedure can provide faster recovery with less visual distortion. 

After surgery, it is important not to put any pressure on the eye. It is best not even to touch or rub anywhere near the eye, so the doctor might put a shield over it. Wearing glasses or sunglasses will also help protect the eye.

Your doctor will prescribe eye drops to help the eye heal and prevent infection. It is necessary to keep using some of these medications for several months after a corneal transplant. Without these medications, the eye is much more likely to have problems with the new corneal tissue.

How successful is corneal transplantation?

The majority of the corneal transplantations done in patients with keratoconus, corneal scars and most types of corneal disease are successful. The operation is less successful in eyes with a corneal infection or severe injury such as a chemical burn.