The cornea is the clear covering in the front of the eye that refracts light rays as they enter the eye. For clear vision to occur, the cornea must have the correct shape and clarity to focus the incoming rays precisely on the retina at the back of the eye. When the cornea becomes cloudy or misshapen from injury, infection or disease, your ophthalmologist may recommend a corneal transplant.
How Corneal Transplants Work
Corneal transplantation (keratoplasty) is an outpatient procedure that involves replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy one from a donor (usually through an eye bank). Keratoplasty is a low-risk procedure — it is the most common type of transplant surgery and has the highest success rate.
During the procedure, a circular incision is made in the cornea. A disc of tissue is removed and replaced with healthy tissue. The disc may be thin, such as in lamellar keratoplasty, or as deep as the entire cornea in penetrating keratoplasty. The latter technique is the one most commonly used in corneal transplants. Local or general anesthesia may be used. The entire procedure lasts only 30-90 minutes and post-surgical pain is generally minimal at worst.