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A cornea transplant, or keratoplasty, is an operation to replace part of the cornea with corneal tissue from a donor. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped surface of the eye. Light enters the eye through the cornea.
Nearly 80,000 corneal transplants were performed worldwide in 2021, according to the Eye Bank Association of America. More than 2 million people have recovered their sight through corneal transplants since 1961.
A cornea transplant most often is used to restore vision to a person with a damaged cornea. A cornea transplant also can relieve pain or other symptoms associated with cornea diseases.
Conditions that can be treated with a cornea transplant include:
A cornea transplant removes either the entire thickness or a partial thickness of the diseased cornea and replaces it with healthy donor tissue. The type of procedure your surgeon will recommend depends on your eye condition.
Types of corneal transplant surgery include:
Corneas used in transplants come from people who have died. Corneas from people who died from unknown causes are not used. Corneas from people who had previous eye surgery, eye disease or certain conditions, such as diseases that are passed from one person to the next, also are not used. Unlike people who need organs such as livers and kidneys, people needing cornea transplants don't require tissue matching. In the U.S., donor corneas are widely available, so there's usually not a long waiting list.
Connect with others talking about cornea transplantation and eye conditions in the Eye Conditions support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.
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