Corneal transplant

A corneal transplant, also known as a cornea transplant, corneal graft or keratoplasty, is an operation in which part of the cornea is removed and replaced with a similar piece of clear cornea from a donor eye. 

The cornea is the clear, curved outer layer of the eye. It is made up of several layers and plays a key role in your vision. A corneal transplant is carried out to replace a cornea that has become opaque (not clear) to relieve pain and improve vision, due to a damaged or diseased eye.

One of the most common reasons for a corneal transplant is a disease called keratoconus.

The type of transplant you have will depend on which part of your cornea is damaged or how much of it needs replacing. At Circle Health hospitals, our eye specialists offer the latest surgical techniques for corneal grafts. These options include:

  • Full thickness corneal transplant– where your whole cornea is removed and replaced with a clear donor cornea. This treatment is also known as penetrating keratoplasty (PK)
  • Partial thickness corneal transplant – where the front and middle layers of your cornea are removed. This treatment is also called deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK)
  • Endothelial keratoplasty – this involves removing and replacing the innermost layer of your cornea. Different types of endothelial keratoplasty (EK) are known as: DSEK (or DSAEK), and DMEK.

Before your treatment, your consultant will discuss the different types of corneal transplant with you in the clinic to decide which one is most suitable for you. On the day of the procedure, you will be admitted to a private room at Circle Health. Your consultant will visit you there to review the operation.

Corneal transplant surgery may be performed under general anaesthetic (where you are unconscious) or local anaesthetic (where the area is numbed and you're awake). In most cases, the procedure takes less than an hour.

If you have a local anaesthetic, you should be able to go home on the same day. If you have a general anaesthetic, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

The recovery time for a corneal transplant will depend on the type of operation you have. A full cornea transplant will usually take longer to recover than a partial cornea transplant. Your consultant will give you instructions about caring for your eye to improve your recovery.

Significant complications during this surgery are rare. As with all types of surgery, there is a risk of some complications after a cornea transplant. In private consultation, your consultant will discuss the benefits and risks of these treatment options for you, and answer any questions or concerns you may have.

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH