Call Us

Corneal Associates, PC
840 Walnut Street
Suite 920
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5109

Phone: 215-928-3180
Fax: 215-928-3854

Click here for map & directions

Corneal Transplant Surgery

The cornea, the clear covering of the eye, can become diseased or damaged by several conditions, including keratoconus, corneal edema, and corneal dystrophy. The cornea can also swell after cataract surgery or display scarring. In these cases, diseased, scarred, swollen, or irregular corneas can be replaced by a corneal transplant. Corneal transplants are usually performed using a healthy donor cornea, and enjoy a high success rate.

Keratoconus can often be managed with Intacs®, though a corneal transplant may eventually become necessary as the disease progresses.

back to top

The Corneal Transplant Procedure

In a corneal transplant procedure, about two-thirds of the diseased or damaged cornea is removed and a clear, healthy donor cornea is grafted onto the eye. Fine nylon sutures secure the new cornea in place, and antibiotics are administered to prevent infection. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia, and occasionally general anesthesia.

Corneal transplant surgery has the highest success rate of all types of transplant surgery. It is rare for the body to reject a new cornea, and in that case, the rejection can be managed when it is detected early. Corneal transplants are unique because the donor blood type does not need to be matched to the recipient, since corneas have no direct blood supply.

At Wills Eye Institute, we are fortunate to have a close working relationship with the Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley, which provides donor tissue for all of our corneal transplants. Dr. Rapuano serves on the institution’s Medical Advisory Board. Due to the valuable work of the Lions Eye Bank, and the Eye Bank Association of America, we no longer use a waiting list for corneal transplants, but rather schedule surgeries for specific days.

Since 1965, we have performed over 4,500 corneal transplants at Wills Eye Institute. Our corneal specialists have published numerous studies on the outcomes of corneal transplants over the years. We are currently performing a study on the effect of donor age on transplant survival. Our ongoing research interests aid us in providing the best patient care possible.

back to top

Synthetic Corneas

Although donor corneas that have been carefully screened for disease are usually preferable, the use of a synthetic corneal transplant may be necessary in some cases. Synthetic corneas, which are carefully engineered, FDA-approved, and made of a biocompatible material, are preferable when several graft failures have occurred, or the risk of the procedure is high. Boston Keratoprosthesis is a surgery we perform here at Corneal Associates for the right candidate.

Learn more about Boston Keratoprosthesis here.

At Wills Eye Institute, we offer both donor and synthetic cornea transplants to our patients. Our experienced corneal specialists can help determine which type of transplant is best for you, or whether your eye condition might be improved by an alternative treatment such as Intacs®.

back to top

Recovery from Corneal Transplant Surgery

The acute healing period after a corneal transplant is four to six weeks. While many patients recover good vision in two to three months, complete healing requires about a year. After surgery, it is imperative to protect the eye and apply special eye drops. It’s also important to report sudden changes—redness, light sensitivity, pain, decreased vision, and the like—to your surgeon, as signs like these can be clues that your body is rejecting the new cornea. With vigilance and quick detection, rejection can be managed or avoided.

back to top