Corneal Transplants

DMEK corneal transplants are now performed at Thompson Hospital, helping patients from throughout the region to lead more active lives.

The cornea is the clear front of the eye, covering the colored iris and pupil. Light is focused while passing through the cornea and if the cornea becomes swollen or scarred, the light becomes distorted and results in glare or blurred vision.

There are three main layers to the cornea:

  • Corneal Cross-SectionEpithelium: Much like skin, it acts as a barrier to protect the cornea from dust, debris and bacteria
  • Stroma: Gives the cornea its strength and shape and makes up 90% of the corneal thickness
  • Endothelium: Provides the appropriate balance of fluid in the cornea, keeping it thin and crystal clear – it is one single layer of cells located on the Descemet membrane and is the portion that is replaced with DMEK (Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty)


Corneal transplantation was first performed over 100 years ago but advancements over the past 10 years allow for targeted replacements of the diseased portions of the cornea.

Patients experience:

  • Faster recovery
  • Greater predictability
  • Less rejection
  • Better visual outcomes


Minimal sedation is used, with topical eye drops to numb the eye, and the surgery is performed through a small, cataract surgery-sized incision.

Donor tissue is obtained and evaluated by the Lions Eye Bank at Rochester. In corneal transplantation, all donors are “universal” donors, meaning a cornea from one donor could go to any recipient because there is no tissue typing or blood type matching needed.

For information about eye donation, visit