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Corneal Transplant (Full Thickness): Before Your Surgery

Anatomy of the eye

What is a full thickness corneal transplant?

A full thickness corneal transplant is done to remove a diseased, infected, or scarred cornea. It's replaced with a healthy cornea from a person who has died. The cornea is the clear surface that covers the front of the eye.

In most cases, you will be awake during the surgery. The doctor will put medicine in your eye to numb it. You may also get medicine to help you relax. Or you may get it to make you sleep during the surgery.

Surgical tools are used to keep your eye open. You may feel some pressure in your eye. The doctor makes a small cut (incision) in your cornea. Then your cornea is removed. The doctor puts the new cornea over your eye and sews it into place. You will usually need to visit your doctor to have the stitches removed. The stitches may be removed all at once, or they may be slowly removed over months or years.

This transplant takes about 1 hour. Most people go home on the day of the surgery.

After surgery, you will need to wear an eye patch for about a day. Then you will need to wear a clear eye shield or glasses to protect your eye. You'll use this until the eye has healed.

Ask your doctor when you will be able to return to work and your normal routine.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Your surgery may be cancelled if you have an eye infection, your eye is swollen, or there are problems with the donor cornea.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The surgery takes about 1 hour.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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