Corneal transplant surgery -- also called keratoplasty -- preserves or restores vision impaired by advanced corneal disease or when the cornea has been damaged by scarring, trauma, or infection. Duke corneal surgeons have extensive experience and perform hundreds of corneal transplants each year using the latest advances. Our goal is to recover or preserve your vision and help you return to your daily activities.
When Is Corneal Transplant Surgery Necessary?
You may be a candidate for corneal transplantation if you have been diagnosed with keratoconus, which causes your cornea to become thin and cone-shaped, or when an inherited corneal dystrophy, such as Fuchs’ dystrophy, results in vision-impairing corneal swelling and clouding. You may also be a candidate for corneal transplantation if your cornea has been damaged by infection, scarring, or trauma.
The procedure is typically recommended when less-invasive corneal disease treatments, such as special glasses or contact lenses, and medications to reduce swelling cannot halt the progression of your corneal disease.
There are several types of corneal transplant procedures to remove damaged, unhealthy cornea tissue. Which procedure is right for you is determined after a comprehensive evaluation that includes sophisticated imaging of your cornea. This allows us to recommend the most effective procedure for your condition.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Tests for Corneal Disorders
Your corneal surgeon will conduct a thorough examination of your eye and its structures using a variety of imaging devices to help diagnose any corneal disorders or diseases.
Corneal Topography and Tomography
A computer-guided device creates a 3-D image map of your cornea to measure corneal power, curvature, and thickness.
Ultrasound waves measure the thickness of your cornea.
Optical Coherence Tomography
OCT is a non-contact imaging test that uses light waves to take high-resolution, cross-sectional pictures of your cornea. These images can be used to examine changes to the normal layered anatomy of the cornea.
Slit Lamp Exam
This test gives your doctor a magnified, 3-D view of the structures at the front of your eye.
By measuring the curvature of your cornea’s front surface, your doctor can assess astigmatism.
In-Vivo Confocal Microscopy
Your doctor examines the cellular structure of your cornea and allows your doctor to see normal and abnormal cells in the various corneal layers (epithelium, Bowman’s layer, stroma, Descemet’s membrane, and endothelium) as well as infectious cells such as fungi and amoeba.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our ophthalmology program is ranked sixth in the nation and is the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.
Choosing a Corneal Transplant Surgeon
Advanced Training in Corneal Disease Management
Our corneal surgeons are ophthalmologists who have undergone advanced training in the medical and surgical management of corneal disease.
Latest Corneal Transplant Techniques
We use the latest techniques to remove only the diseased portion of the cornea, rather than all the layers of the cornea, when appropriate. These new corneal transplant procedures retain the structural integrity of your eye, minimize your risk of rejection, quicken your recovery, and improve your vision.
Advanced Intraoperative Imaging
We have access to advanced, high-resolution imaging, which can be used during procedures to more precisely perform and monitor corneal transplant surgery.
Artificial Cornea Implants
We are one of the few eye centers in the region with the surgical skill and expertise to treat advanced corneal disease with artificial cornea implants (keratoprosthesis). This may be an option if you have not had success with standard corneal transplants.
Innovative Assessment Using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
Our researchers are studying new ways to use optical coherence tomography (OCT), a noninvasive imaging technology that allows us to look closely at the cornea and assess the severity of your corneal disease. This helps us make the best treatment recommendations for your condition.
Patient Support Services
We offer patient support services, including educational materials and programs, a low vision rehabilitation program, and a dedicated social worker to help you and your loved ones manage your condition and maximize your quality of life.