Corneal transplantation is a major surgery which is performed in an operating room. With the advent of newer treatment options, full thickness corneal transplantation (penetrating keratoplasty) is being reserved for select indications of keratoconus when other less invasive procedures are no longer an option. A corneal transplant is warranted for patients with keratoconus when adequate vision can no longer be achieved with contact lenses. This can occur from significant steepening of the cornea, scarring, or contact lens intolerance.


A corneal transplant involves a surgeon making incisions with a blade or a laser to remove all of the layers of the central portion of the cornea. This portion of the cornea is then replaced with corneal donor graft tissue which is secured with sutures. Though the long-term survival rate of the graft is high, there is a lifelong risk of rejection of the corneal graft. Other complications can include wound leak, irregular astigmatism, pupil abnormalities, or keratoconus re-occurring in the graft. Glasses or contact lenses will still be needed after surgery for functional vision. Because it is a medically necessary treatment, a corneal transplant is generally covered in part by medical insurance.

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