Keratoconus Patient Education

Corneal Transplant FAQs

What is a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure to replace part of your cornea with corneal tissue from a donor. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped surface of your eye. This surface is responsible for focusing light much like the lens of a camera. The cornea must be clear and regular because it accounts for a large part of your eye’s focusing power.

A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure to replace part of your cornea with corneal tissue from a donor.

What is Intralase Enabled Keratoplasty (IEK)?

Intralase Enabled Keratoplasty (IEK) is a revolutionary way of performing corneal transplant surgery. IEK incorporates the Intralase femtosecond laser with cornea transplant surgery. Unlike conventional corneal transplant surgery known as Penetrating Keratoplasty (PKP), the IEK procedure utilizes Intralase femtosecond laser technology to create the incision into both the donor and the recipient tissue. This method allows the surgeon to prepare the donor and recipient tissue in a similar fashion with the precision of the Intralase laser. The donor cornea fits almost perfectly into the recipient’s eye. IEK may offer increased accuracy, less surgically induced astigmatism, and a generally quicker visual recovery.

What is the advantage of using a laser in transplant surgery?

Historically, a trephine or hand-held blade system was used creating weak appasition of the incisions, which requires sutures to remain in place for up to one-year post operatively. Post-operative astigmatism is usually very high, requiring rigid gas permeable contact lenses to correct vision.

The newer femtosecond laser technique uses a precise laser to remove only the abnormal corneal tissue, conserving the patient’s endothelial cells, and may reduce the risk of rejection. IEK allows the early removal of sutures (due to much stronger wounds after laser), which may result in earlier visual rehabilitation within 7 months as opposed to the 18 months with the older techniques.

Intralase Enabled Keratoplasty (IEK) is a revolutionary way of performing corneal transplant surgery.

Where does the donor tissue come from?

Corneas are sourced from regional “eye banks.” The donor tissue is rigorously inspected for suitability and safety.

What are the reasons for a corneal transplant?

Transplants may be performed to restore vision by replacing scarred, diseased or physically distorted corneal tissue with clear, non-distorted healthy tissue. Often times, these are typically caused by Keratoconus, trauma or infections. Your physician may also recommend transplantation to improve the appearance of corneal scars.

What is the risk of transplant failure?

Corneal rejection is uncommon. In the rare event it occurs, it can be treated medically in most circumstances. Rarely, a loss of transparency occurs due to rejection or repeated eye surgeries. If this occurs, another procedure may be performed at the discretion of your surgeon.

Most corneal transplants last well beyond 10 years. Corneal transplant patients require bi-annual ophthalmic checkups to ensure optimal eye health.

Cornea donor tissue is rigorously inspected for suitability and safety.

How soon does my vision become functional?

This varies from patient to patient, contingent upon the surgical technique employed to execute the procedure and achievable pre-operative vision.

The new femtosecond laser technique (IEK), offers most patients the ability to achieve vision for limited function, without contacts or glasses, within 2 to 3 weeks. At 6 to 7 months after surgery, when some or all of the sutures have been removed, most patients may achieve 20/40 or better vision with glasses or contacts.

The non-laser technique has a much longer recovery period. A similar outcome may be achieved at 12-18 months.

In many cases, Laser vision correction can be performed after corneal transplantation surgery to address residual astigmatism or nearsightedness. The timing of this depends on the cornea’s stability.

Most patients may achieve 20/40 or better vision with glasses or contacts within 6 to 7 months after surgery.

When can I resume normal activities?

This varies from patient to patient. In general, it is safe to resume normal non-contact physical activities, like gym, golfing, etc., within 1 month.

Will my eye color change?

No, your eye color stays exactly the same. The transplant involves only the transparent clear cornea and not the colored part of the eye (iris).

Does medical insurance cover the cost of a corneal transplant?

Coverage depends entirely on the insurance policy and the medical necessity of the procedure. At nJoy Vision, we will verify what your specific insurance will cover.