If you need a cornea transplant, you will receive healthy cornea tissue from a deceased donor. In these situations, you, the patient, are also called a recipient since you are receiving eye tissue from a donor.

Two Types of Corneal Transplant Surgery

There are two main types of corneal transplant procedures:

  • Full thickness corneal transplant (also known as penetrating keratoplasty)
  • Partial thickness corneal transplant (also known as lamellar keratoplasty, which includes endothelial keratoplasty)

Your eye surgeon will determine which procedure is best for you based on your condition.

Both procedures have a high success rate of 95-99 percent.

Penetrating Keratoplasty

1a

Surgeon removing diseased/ damaged cornea

1b

Surgeon placing donor cornea into patient

1c

Surgeon will suture the donor cornea into place

1d

The procedure is complete


During a penetrating keratoplasty, surgeons remove a circular, button-shaped, full thickness section of tissue from your cornea, usually when your cornea is injured or diseased. Then, surgeons position and suture into place a matching “button” of healthy corneal tissue from a donor. Utah Lions Eye Bank provides this healthy tissue for your transplant surgery.

A penetrating keratoplasty generally takes one to two hours. In most cases, you can go home soon after surgery.

Endothelial Keratoplasty

2a

Surgeon removes the diseased/ damaged cornea

2b

Surgeon implants a thin disk of donor tissue

During an endothelial keratoplasty, your ophthalmologist makes a tiny incision and places a thin disc of donor tissue on the back surface of your cornea. The Utah Lions Eye Bank provides this healthy tissue for your transplant surgery.

Your ophthalmologist then uses an air bubble to move the new endothelial layer into place.

This small incision will heal on its own. You may need one to two sutures (stitches) to close the incision.

Length of Surgery & Recovery

An endothelial keratoplasty generally takes sixty to ninety minutes. In most cases, you can go home soon after surgery, and the healing time is generally faster than with a penetrating keratoplasty. A penetrating keratoplasty generally takes one to two hours. Similar to an endothelial keratoplasty, you can usually go home soon after surgery, but healing time can take longer.

The Utah Lions Eye Bank works with surgeons domestically and all over the world. Learn more about Moran Eye Center's surgeons.