Is an Eye Transplant Possible?

Understanding How Transplants Can Help Improve Vision

Cornea, corneas, cornea before surgery, cornea after surgery, cornea before and after surgery,
Cornea: Before and After Surgery. © ADAM

Question: Is an Eye Transplant Possible?

My friend says she is having an eye transplant surgery, I say such a thing isn't possible. Who is right?


You may hear the words "eye transplant" used by patients, but a true eye transplant surgery is not possible. An entire eye cannot be taken from one person and transplanted into another person in order to improve vision.  That does work with organ transplants and some tissues, but cannot be done with an entire eye.

Currently, the only eye transplant procedure that is available is the cornea transplant, which replaces a diseased cornea with a cornea donated by a deceased donor. So your friend probably meant that she would be having a cornea transplant, not an eye transplant.  

The good news is that for many people, a cornea transplant can mean a dramatic improvement in vision. Some individuals go from legally blind to better than 20/20 after a cornea transplant.

The Future of Whole Eye Transplantation

Scientists and medical researchers don't expect a total eye transplant surgery to become a possibility in the near future. A true transplant of the eye would require severing and reattaching the optic nerve, which is beyond the current capabilities of surgeons. 

It may be decades or even centuries before surgical technology makes such a delicate and involved surgery possible, and until that time other types of vision therapies will be used to treat eye conditions.


Facts about the Cornea and Cornea Disease. National Eye Institute. January 2011.

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