Corneal Transplant

Corneal transplantation refers to the replacement of all or part of the cornea (the front window of the eye) with a donor cornea. It was first performed in the early 1900s. During all types of corneal transplantation, the diseased part of the patient’s cornea is removed and replaced with healthy corneal tissue from a human donor.

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What is corneal transplant surgery?

Corneal transplantation refers to replacement of all or part of the cornea; the specific transplant type is dependent on the underlying problem.

There are many different reasons why the cornea may be damaged and lose its clarity and transparency leading to loss of vision. These can include infective causes such as the herpes simplex virus (cold sore virus) or contact lens related infection, traumatic injuries, inherited diseases such as Fuchs’ dystrophy or lattice dystrophy, or even previous cataract or glaucoma surgery.

The optical function of the cornea may also be affected by conditions that lead to a change in it’s shape including keratoconus or pellucid marginal degeneration, or due to prior infection or injury.

Often, instead of transplanting the entire cornea, only the diseased portion is transplanted. In keratoconus, this means leaving the endothelial cell layer undisturbed and only transplanting the anterior (front) part of the cornea (Deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty or DALK).

Treatment types are varied including penetrating keratoplasty, lamellar surgery or selective endothelial keratoplasty; your surgeon will recommend the best treatment option for you. Or you can book a consultation with us and find out how our surgeons can tailor the treatment based on your specific needs.

Types of corneal transplants

  • A full-thickness transplant is called a penetrating keratoplasty (PK). During this procedure, a circular piece of damaged cornea from the centre of your eye is removed and replaced with the donated cornea.
  • Techniques for transplanting only part of the cornea have also been developed. Depending on the condition you are suffering from, a partial thickness transplant may be the best option for you, as the procedures often have a faster recovery time and a lower risk of complications. This type of surgery is called lamellar (layered) surgery
  • The latest development in corneal transplantation is a procedure called DMEK, where just the affected back membrane of the cornea is transplanted- a layer that is just 10 microns thick.

What is the process?


We’ll take you through the process step by step and explain the potential complications to help you to weigh up the risks and benefits in order to make an informed decision regarding corneal transplant surgery.

Treatment plan

Our consultants will develop a bespoke treatment plan based on your current level of vision and personal needs.

Preparing for surgery

Our dedicated team of consultants, nurses and patient co-ordinators will take you through our pre-op process ensuring all your questions are answered and you’re totally at ease.

The procedure

The type of corneal transplant surgery carried out will depend on the parts of the cornea that need to be replaced. It typically takes 20 – 90 minutes.


Most corneal transplant surgery is now carried out as day case surgery. After your surgery, we’ll provide all the information you need to ensure your eye makes a full recovery.


Visual recovery varies, with patients experiencing faster recovery after the partial thickness transplant procedures.

Follow up consult

We’ll be in touch to support you and follow up to see how you’re getting on with your new and improved eye sight.

Yearly checkup

We encourage yearly check ups to ensure your eye sight is remaining in perfect condition.

If you have any questions on corneal transplants, we’ll be happy to answer them. Make an enquiry or call us on 0203 369 2020