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Corneal transplantation FAQs



What is the cornea?

The cornea is the clear, front layer of the eye. Shaped like a dome, it protects the eye from foreign bodies. The cornea plays an important role in vision by refracting (bending) light entering the eye to help focus it on the retina. While minor abrasions tend to heal quickly, deeper corneal injuries can cause scarring.

Where does the donor for a corneal transplant come from?

Almost anyone can donate their corneas or other parts of their eyes.

Donated corneas are tested to make sure they are free from disease and damage. People with severe infections or diseases such as HIV and hepatitis cannot donate their corneas.

Individuals can register with the Australian Organ Donor Register or tell their next of kin they wish to become a donor.

What are the risks of a corneal transplant?

Corneal transplants have a high success rate.1 But there are potential complications, including the risk of an eye infection, swelling, bleeding or a cataract developing. Rejection occurs in approximately 20% of cases, often as the result of a new injury or illness.2

How long does a corneal transplant take?

A corneal transplant is performed as a day procedure and the operation itself takes about an hour. Recovery is gradual and it may take up to a year before you see the full results.

References and further reading

General resources

  1. Waldock et al. Commentary: Corneal transplantation: how successful are we?. Br J Ophthalmol 2000;84:813–815. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1723567/pdf/v084p00813.pdf ↩︎
  2. Tan et al. Corneal transplantation: Lancet. 2012 May 5;379(9827):1749-61. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60437-1. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60437-1 ↩︎

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 2023-09-01 | Date for next review: 2025-09-01

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