What is a corneal transplant?

Corneal transplants are one of medicine’s most successful transplant operations. In the past 35 years, more than 250,000 corneal transplants have been performed in the United States. The traditional procedure involves removing the cornea from the donor eye with a special instrument resembling a small cookie cutter. The same method is used to remove the damaged cornea from the patient’s eye. The surgeon then stitches the new cornea into place.

For many individuals, a corneal transplant may be the only hope for restored vision and may be necessary when the cornea is cloudy or damaged due to disease, injury, accident, or hereditary conditions. In these situations, the cornea must be removed and replaced with healthy donor tissue. The procedure is successful in over 90 percent of cases, restoring sight and, in some cases, even providing sight for the first time.

Today, corneal scars and keratoconus are the most common reasons for corneal transplants. Most transplants today are performed through a small incision, replacing only the sick back layer of the cornea, with a healthy back layer from a donor cornea. This allows for faster vision recovery, and maintains a stronger eye. This is much safer than a traditional full thickness transplant.
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