A cornea transplant, also known as cornea grafting, is a surgical procedure that replaces a damaged cornea with a donor cornea either in its entirety (penetrating keratoplasty) or in part (lamellar keratoplasty). If the cornea is injured, it may become swollen or scarred, and its smoothness and clarity may be lost. Scars, swelling or an irregular shape can cause the cornea to scatter or distort light, resulting in glare or blurred vision.

The cornea is the most frequently transplanted part of the human body. More than 97% of cornea transplants performed in the United States are successful.

What is a cornea?

The cornea is the front clear part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil and anterior chamber. Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye’s total optical power. It imparts the greatest focusing power of all the ocular media. The cornea is composed of five distinguishable layers: epithelium, Bowman’s membrane, the stroma, Descemet’s membrane and the endothelium.

How transplantation works

The Gift of Sight begins with the selfless decision of a cornea donor and their family who, in their time of grief, choose to leave a legacy of sight for others.

Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley is responsible for recovering, processing and distributing cornea tissue for sight-restoring transplantation. Our eye bank technicians travel to hospitals and other facilities to recover donor tissue. Once recovered, tissue is carefully screened, evaluated and processed in our laboratory to ensure the highest quality and safest tissue for transplant. When a surgeon has a patient in need of a cornea transplant, they contact Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley to coordinate tissue for their surgery.

Who needs a cornea transplant?

People need a transplant for many reasons. Disease or injury can range from newborns to senior citizens and come from all walks of life. People suffer from blunt injuries, burns or infections of the eye that damage one or both corneas. Certain diseases may cause the cornea to become clouded and distorted in shape. When a cornea is clouded, no light can pass through and blindness sets in.