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Complications from Corneal Grafts

Corneal graft is a transplant surgical procedure where part of […]

By Published On: 2 December 20122.7 min read

Corneal graft is a transplant surgical procedure where part of or the entire cornea is removed and replaced with a healthy one. The replacement cornea is obtained from a person who passed away recently and who elected to donate his cornea.

Just like any surgical procedure, the risk of complications also exists in corneal grafts. While these may rarely happen, it would help if you familiarize yourself with these possible complications. This would come in handy if you or your relative needs to undergo a corneal graft so you know what symptoms of complications to watch out for. Read on to learn more.

Water Logging of Cornea or Corneal Oedema

Normally, the cornea is maintained in a dehydrated state by the corneal endothelium or a single layer of cells found on the innermost surface of the cornea. This is necessary to maintain the transparency of the cornea. Your endothelial cells do not grow or reproduce. However, as you grow older, the endothelium may fail. This is one of the reasons why you undergo corneal graft. Unfortunately, you are at risk of losing endothelial cells when the procedure is performed. This can be remedied by repeating the transplant.


•    Eye irritation
•    See colored halos around lights
•    Blurred vision especially upon waking up in the morning.


This is probably the most common corneal graft complication, occurring in one out of seven persons who undergo the procedure. This happens when your immune defense mechanism does not recognize the donated cornea, thereby treating it as a foreign object and attacking it. It should be detected and treated earlier to increase the chance of recovery. This can be treated with steroid eye drops, tablets or injections.

At Risk

•    Blood vessels grew into the cornea due to prior infections or inflammations
•    Prior transplants
•    Other eye diseases like glaucoma.


•    Pain in the eyes
•    Red eyes
•    Decrease in sight.

Recurrence of Prior Disease

If the procedure was performed to address a genetic disease, then such condition may recur. These diseases can include:

•    Infection such as the herpes virus
•    Keratoconus
•    Corneal dystrophy.


Astigmatism is an eye condition that refers to the asymmetrical curvature or distortion of the cornea.

You can expect to have some degree of astigmatism after you undergo a corneal graft. This can be corrected with eye glasses. In some cases, if the astigmatism is of a high degree or if it comes with farsightedness or nearsightedness, you may be required to wear contact lenses.

In rare instances, however, the procedure can result into a very severe form of astigmatism that cannot be treated simply with the use of contact lenses. You may need to undergo another transplant when that happens. You may also be advised to undergo any of the following procedures, depending on your condition:

•    Excimer laser surgery
•    Re-suturing
•    Peripheral cuts or astigmatic keratotomies.


When you undergo a corneal graft, you may be required to use steroid eye drops. While this can relieve your post-surgery symptoms, it can also lead to the development of a cataract or an eye condition characterized by the clouding of the lens within the eye. This can be addressed by undergoing another transplant or you may undergo a surgery for cataract removal.


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