What is Penetrating Keratoplasty?

If the cornea becomes cloudy, the only way to restore sight is to replace or transplant the cornea.  Corneal transplant (keratoplasty) is the most successful of all tissue transplants.  An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 corneal transplants are done each year in the United States.  The success rate depends on the cause of the clouding.  For example, corneal transplants for degeneration following cataract surgery and those for keratoconus both have high success rates, while corneal transplants for chemical burns have lower success rates.


What can cause corneal injury?

Corneal injuries include exposure to chemicals, sharp objects, burns, or explosions can cause corneal scarring and severely decreased vision.  Most corneal injuries are preventable with protective glasses and proper precautions when dealing with hazardous substances.

How are corneal transplants done?

Corneal tissue for transplant comes from the eye bank.  The process begins at the death of someone who has been generous enough to be a donor.  Names of patients needing corneal transplants are placed on a waiting list until tissue is available.  The operation consists of a transfer of the clear central part of the cornea  from the donor’s eye to the patient’s eye.  Soon after the operation, the patient can walk about and resume activity.

What happens after surgery?

Return of best vision after corneal transplant surgery may take up to a year after the operation, depending on the rate of healing and the health of the rest of the eye.  As in any kind of transplant, rejection of the donated tissue can take place.  The major signs of rejection are redness of the eye or worsening of vision.  If these occur, prompt return to your ophthalmologist is necessary even if it has been years after the original operation.