Image of doctor using laser equipment for eye surgery.

Corneal Transplants

Corneal Transplant/PKP – This procedure is recommended for patients that have keratoconus, scarred cornea, corneal edema or some form of injury/trauma. A graft replaces central corneal tissue, damaged due to disease or eye injury, with healthy corneal tissue donated from a local eye bank. An unhealthy cornea affects your vision by scattering or distorting light and causing glare and blurred vision. A cornea transplant may be necessary to restore your functional vision.

Before donor corneas are released for transplant, the tissue is checked for clarity. Also, donor eyes supplying transplant tissue are meticulously screened for presence of diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS or other damage to ensure the health and safety of the recipient.

Corneal transplants are performed on an outpatient basis with a local monitored anesthesia used, depending on your health, age and whether or not you prefer to be asleep during the procedure. A round, button-shaped section of tissue is then removed from your diseased or injured cornea. A nearly identical-shaped button from the donor tissue is then sutured into place. Finally, the surgeon will place a plastic shield over your eye to protect it from being inadvertently rubbed or bumped.

The total recovery time for a corneal transplant can be up to a year or longer. Initially, your vision will be blurry and the site of your corneal transplant may be swollen and slightly thicker than the rest of your cornea. As your vision improves, you will gradually be able to return to your normal daily activities. For the first several weeks, heavy exercise and lifting are prohibited.

However, you should be able to return to work three to seven days after surgery, depending on your job. Steroid eye drops will be prescribed for several months to help your body accept the new corneal graft. Stitches usually are removed three to 17 months post-surgery, depending on the health of your eye and the rate of healing. Adjustments can be made to the sutures surrounding the new cornea to help reduce the amount of astigmatism resulting from an irregular eye surface.