Correcting Damage to the Cornea
Many conditions can affect the clear surface of your eye (cornea). Damage to the cornea can cause vision loss and pain. Severe damage to the cornea or symptoms of corneal disease may require treatment with a cornea transplant.
Our eye care team at USC Roski Eye Institute is one of only a few in the country with expertise in all types of cornea transplant surgery.
What Is Cornea Transplant?
A cornea transplant — also called a keratoplasty or a corneal graft — is a type of surgery performed to replace a damaged cornea with an artificial or donor cornea.
We offer several types of corneal transplants. Your doctor will discuss the best type of cornea transplant for your specific condition.
Cornea transplant procedures we offer include:
- Deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK) — To treat keratoconus (thinning and bulging of the cornea) and scarring caused by herpes
- Endothelial keratoplasty — To treat swelling of the cornea that causes vision loss. We offer Descemet’s stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) and Descemet’s membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK).
- Femtosecond laser-assisted keratoplasty (FLAK) — To treat keratoconus, cornea scars and scarring caused by herpes
- Keratoprosthesis (KPro) — Implantation of an artificial cornea to treat a failed donor cornea transplant
- Penetrating keratoplasty (PKP) — To treat scars on the cornea
What to Expect Before, During and after Cornea Transplant Surgery
A cornea transplant is an effective treatment for a damaged or injured cornea. Your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will discuss the risks associated with the surgery. You can expect improved eyesight and reduced pain after the transplant, though you may still require corrective lenses to achieve the best possible vision. Our ophthalmologists work with you to develop the best plan for your unique needs. When you come to us for care, here’s what you can expect:
- Before Cornea Transplant Surgery: Before cornea transplant surgery, your ophthalmologist will examine your eye to determine what type of cornea transplant is best for you.
- During Cornea Transplant Surgery: Most cornea transplant surgeries are performed under monitored anesthesia care. This means you are awake during the procedure, but your eye is numbed so that you won’t feel pain. During the procedure, your ophthalmologist removes the damaged cornea and replaces it with the donor or artificial cornea. The new cornea is secured in place with either stitches thinner than a strand of hair (PKP, DALK, KPro or FLAK) or an air bubble (DMEK or DSEK).
- After Cornea Transplant Surgery: After cornea transplant surgery, you will be monitored in a recovery area and go home the same day. Because your vision will be blurry immediately after the procedure, you’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you.
Your doctor will prescribe eye drops and medications to prevent infection, control inflammation and help you heal. Your doctor will monitor your cornea transplant recovery at regular follow-up appointments. You can expect it to take several weeks for your vision to improve.
Expert Care You Can Trust
The USC Roski Eye Institute was the first center in California to offer DSEK corneal transplants.
Keck Hospital of USC earned five stars, the highest rating possible, on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 2023 quality star ratings report, demonstrating our continuing commitment to patient safety and to the best patient outcomes.
Our top-ranked program offers state-of-the-art diagnostic services and innovative, individualized treatments.
We are by your side every step of the way as you navigate diagnosis, treatment and recovery.