Oculase Articles

A surgeon’s guide to corneal transplant surgery

Mr Tariq Ayoub - 27 Mar 2024

It is natural to worry before a procedure, particularly when having transplant surgery. However, we are here to walk you through the steps that will be taken during your procedure. Learning more about what you’ll be going through can be reassuring and put you at ease before the surgery. 

Find out more about what will happen during corneal transplant surgery and how to prepare and recover from the procedure. 

Preparation 

Before the procedure, we will conduct an eye exam to assess the health of your eye and treat any unrelated eye problems. We will also measure the eye to prepare the donor cornea for surgery. 

You must tell us the medications you are currently taking and have been prescribed. We’ll need to evaluate whether you need to stop taking certain medications. This is to ensure there are no medications that stop blood clotting in your system during surgery. 

Before the day of your surgery, we will provide specific instructions on what to do leading up to your appointment. Some general advice would be: 

  • Keep your face free of makeup, skincare (creams and lotions), and jewellery 
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing the day of the procedure 
  • No eating or drinking past midnight on the night before the appointment 

We will also prescribe antibiotic eye drops to use the day before to ensure you don’t catch any pre-operative infections. 

The day of surgery 

Before we start the surgery, we will give you an anaesthetic to take away the pain during the procedure. We can administer local or general anaesthetic, depending on your preference. You will be given numbing eye drops to help relax your eyes beforehand.  

When your surgeon is ready, they will place a device on your eye to hold it open during the surgery. You will see very little, if at all, during the procedure, despite your eyes being open. This is because of the anaesthetic. 

A small microscope and a cutting instrument (called a trephine) are used to help surgeons make a small, round incision on the cornea. Depending on the damage, part of the tissue or the whole cornea will be replaced. Once the old cornea has been removed, your surgeon will place your new donor cornea into your eye. They will cut it to fit and sew the new cornea to the eye with an ultra-fine thread. This thread will stay in place until the eye completely heals. 

The type of corneal surgery will depend on your condition. Read more about the different types of corneal surgery here. 

The procedure takes approximately 1 to 2 hours to complete. Afterwards, you may spend an additional 1 to 2 hours in the recovery room. 

After surgery 

Following the surgery, your eye will be covered with a patch or gauze, which you will likely wear for up to 6 hours after surgery. 

You should be able to go home a few hours after the procedure. We may keep you overnight for observation if we believe this is required due to your condition after surgery. You will need to arrange for someone to take you home afterwards as you won’t be able to drive yourself after the anaesthetic. 

If you experience pain during recovery, you can take over-the-counter pain medicine. Talk to one of our specialists about which ones you can take after surgery. 

Recovery 

Total recovery time will depend on the type of transplant surgery that you have. Generally, people notice an improvement within 6 weeks of surgery, sometimes sooner. However, vision can continue to improve for several months after the surgery. It is important to wear glasses during your recovery, as this can help ensure you have better vision in the long term.   

While you recover, you must use the eye drops or oral medication provided by our specialist to avoid post-operative infection. It is important not to rub your eye after the procedure, as there is a risk of wound rupture.  

You should not participate in any contact sports after surgery until our specialists sign off that you are okay to do so.  

You should not get any water in your eyes for a month. You can still shower or bath, but just be cautious about getting water in your eyes while you wash. 

You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms: 

  • Coughing 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain 
  • Chills 
  • A fever 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 

Book an appointment 

At Oculase, we will tailor your treatment to give you the best vision results after your procedure. Based on our diagnostic tests, we will ensure your treatment plan is tailored to your needs.  

Mr Tariq Ayoub has performed thousands of cataract surgeries with excellent outcomes. Our video and written reviews highlight this. 

Book a consultation with us to get started on your health journey today. 

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About the author

Mr Tariq Ayoub
Mr Tariq Ayoub, Consultant Ophthalmologist

Mr Ayoub has been rated as one of the top eye surgeons in the UK. He is a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon in London, based at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where he is also the Lead for the Emergency Department at Western Eye Hospital.

0330 128 1616

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