When an injury or disease damages your cornea, a corneal transplant may be able to restore or dramatically improve your vision. A corneal transplant is an outpatient procedure. Most corneal transplants have a favorable outcome, and success rates are rising as techniques and training methods improve.
The cornea is the clear covering of the front of the eye which bends (refracts) light rays as they enter the eye. For clear vision to occur, the cornea must have the correct shape and power to focus incoming light rays precisely on the retina at the back of the eye. When the cornea loses its transparency, whether from injury, infection or disease, transplantation may be recommended to replace it.
Your corneal tissue can quickly heal minor injuries and scratches before you experience infection or visual disturbances. However, deep injuries can permanently damage your vision. A corneal transplant, or keratoplasty, is a surgical procedure that replaces a damaged or diseased cornea with healthy tissue from a donor.
The corneal tissue comes from a recently deceased, registered tissue donor. Because almost everyone can donate their corneas after they die, the waiting list is usually not as long as for other major organ transplants. The tissue generally comes from an eye bank and will undergo testing before transplantation to make sure it’s safe for you.
If you aren’t a good candidate for transplantation with donor tissue, you may be a candidate for an artificial cornea transplant. Donor tissue tends to bring about the best results for the majority of people. However, an artificial transplant may be more successful for people who either have severe ocular surface disease or have had more than one failed graft in the past.