Corneal transplant surgery, or keratoplasty, is a procedure in which the central area of a patient’s cornea is removed and replaced with a donor’s cornea. Corneal transplants are used to restore vision, reduce pain, and improve the appearance of damaged or diseased corneas. Corneal transplants can be used to treat corneal scarring (due to infection or injury), thinning of the cornea, swelling or clouding of the cornea, corneal ulcers and complications from previous eye surgery.
Corneal transplant surgery usually takes between one and two hours. Patients are given a light intravenous sedative before the surgery, and the eye itself is anesthetized. The surgeon removes the diseased or injured cornea and replaces it with the healthy donor cornea. The donor cornea is held in place with stitches. Antibiotic eye drops are used, and the eye is then patched. Patients will be seen the next day for post-operative care. A shield will need to be used at night to protect the eye, and a series of follow-up visits will be scheduled to assess healing and to remove sutures. Corneal transplant has lengthy recovery time, often taking more than a year to achieve good vision. Refractive errors (nearsightedness and farsightedness) and astigmatism can be corrected once the outer layer of the cornea has healed sufficiently.