After cornea transplant surgery 

It's important to take good care of your eye after a cornea transplant to help ensure a good recovery and reduce the risk of complications.

After the procedure

Most people have to stay in hospital for one night after a full-thickness cornea transplant (penetrating keratoplasty). You may be able to go home the same day if you have a partial-thickness transplant. 

Your eye may be covered with an eye pad or plastic shield, which is removed the day after the procedure. When it's taken away, you may find that your sight is blurred. This is normal.

There shouldn't be serious pain after the operation, but there might be some swelling and discomfort.

If you've had an endothelial keratoplasty – a type of partial-thickness transplant that uses an air bubble to hold the donated cornea in place – you may be asked to lie on your back as much as possible in the first few days after surgery. This can help hold the transplant in the correct place. The air bubble will be absorbed after a few days.

Looking after your eye

Once you return home after the procedure, you'll need to take good care of your eye. Some important points to remember include:

  • don't rub your eyes
  • during the first weeks after surgery, avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting
  • if you have a job that does not involve physical strain, you can return to work two to three weeks after surgery
  • if your job involves manual labour, you should wait for three to four months
  • avoid smoky or dusty places as this could irritate your eyes
  • if your eye is sensitive to light, wearing sunglasses can help
  • avoid contact sports and swimming until you're given clear advice that it's safe, and wear protective goggles when resuming contact sports
  • bath and shower as normal, but be careful not to get water in your eye for at least a month
  • don't drive until your specialist tells you it's possible

You'll usually be given a patch to wear at night for the first few weeks after surgery to help protect your eye.

For all types of cornea transplant, you have to use steroid or antibiotic eye drops daily. These are normally required for several months, although some people may need to use them for more than a year. The drops reduce swelling and inflammation and help prevent infection and rejection.

Follow-up

At first you'll need to attend regular follow-up appointments. These should gradually become less frequent over time.

If stitches were used to hold the transplant in place, these are initially left in place to allow the cornea to heal. They are usually removed after about a year.

Your vision

The time it takes for your vision to return after a cornea transplant can range from as little as a few weeks up to a year or more. This largely depends on the specific procedure used. In some cases, your vision may fluctuate between being better or worse before it settles down.

It's likely you'll need corrective lenses (either glasses or contact lenses), even after your vision returns. In some cases, a small operation called arcuate keratotomy (AK) or laser treatment is used to correct vision problems after your eyes have healed.

Page last reviewed: 15/05/2015

Next review due: 01/05/2018