During corneal transplant surgery, the surgeon cuts out the middle of the cornea using a circular tool called a trepine while the patient is under local or general anesthesia, explains the National Keratoconus Foundation. The surgeon then sutures a piece of tissue from a donor cornea into the hole.
Most patients return home the same day of their corneal transplant surgery, notes the NKCF. The surgeon and patient reach a decision about whether to use local or general anesthesia depending on factors such as the patient's overall health, how long the surgeon expects the procedure to take, and the patient's level of anxiety. Once the patient enters the operating room, the doctor cleans the eyelids and places a sterile plastic drape over them. In some cases, the patient also receives an oxygen tube to wear for the duration of the surgery.
The surgeon uses a microscope to ensure precision while he cuts into the diseased cornea and inserts the new corneal tissue, as the NKCF describes. He uses very thin nylon sutures to secure the donor tissue into place. Once the procedure is complete, the patient must wear an eye patch for approximately one to four days while the top layer of the cornea heals. The patient should not attempt to remove this patch on her own; she should schedule a follow-up appointment so the doctor can remove it or inform her if she must continue to wear it longer.