How Much Does a Corneal Transplant Cost?

Written by: Staff

A corneal transplant is a process of replacing a damaged cornea in the eye.  The cornea, which is the round clear part located in the front of the eye, is responsible for transmitting light into the eye so we can see things.  A damaged cornea results in blurred or glared vision since scars or swelling causes light to be scattered as it enters the eye.   When this happens, a corneal transplant is recommended to replace the damaged or infected cornea with a healthy cornea from a human donor.

A corneal transplant is one of the most commonly performed transplant surgery and has a very high success rate.  Last year, more than 40,000 patients in the United States took advantage of this quick and painless procedure.

My Cornea looks like a Black hole! by Rakesh Rocky, on Flickr
My Cornea looks like a Black hole!” (CC BY 2.0) by Rakesh Rocky

How much does a corneal transplant cost?

A corneal transplant can be done using two techniques: the old technique uses a manual hand-held blade, which is much cheaper, and the somewhat new technique uses a laser and is much more efficient, but also more expensive.  In the end, after all of the physician fees, the facility and anesthesia fees, it is best to budget at least $7,600 to $19,000 for the procedure without any insurance.  The costs will always be the cheapest when done in an ambulatory center when compared to a hospital setting.

The costs, however, is usually covered in part by Medicare and health insurers as long as it’s deemed medically necessary.  For example, Medicare Part B shoulders 80% of all costs.  Talk with your health insurance provider to know the limitations and if you would be covered for the transplant.  Depending on your policy, you will be responsible for your co-pay and deductible.  For those who do not have health insurance, consider finding a policy for free at  With a good health insurance plan, most who have had the procedure done, paid $130 to $350 after insurance kicked in.

Dr. Jay Bradley answers on and says, without insurance, a corneal transplant could cost anywhere from $12,000 to $14,000, including the surgical center, surgeon and tissue costs.

Factors that affect the price

Fees in the U.S. vary according to the specific geographical location and patient needs.

Surgeon’s fee, depending upon the experience and demand, makes up for a large part of the cost and could greatly vary.

Medical facilities are also a factor in the total price, whether it is to be performed in the hospital, doctor’s office, or ambulatory clinic.

If your insurance is involved.

The cost of corneal transplant procedures depends on the extent of work to be done such as how many layers are affected by the damage and which technique is used.

Corneal transplant overview

Inside our estimate above, it should include the plastic surgeon fee, anesthesiologist’s fee, hospital/facility charges, medication and implant costs; however, this isn’t always the case at some clinics.  Check with the hospital or facility ahead of time to know what’s included in the costs.

Before the surgery even begins, you will have to meet with an ophthalmologist weeks ahead of time to determine if a transplant will be effective.  During this exam, he or she will take eye measurements and talk about the risks involved.  After all the risks have been discussed and assessed, a surgery date will be set if you qualify.  Since transplanted tissue will come from a deceased donor at a local eye bank, the wait list is usually short.

During the procedure, you will first be given a sedative and local anesthetic to help number the eye.   With a few procedures available, and we discuss them below, the transplant procedure, unless otherwise stated, will always be a day procedure and performed at an outpatient center.

Following the surgery, you will have to wear a protective eye patch and shield for up to five days.

Types of procedures

Full-thickness transplant

This is the most common corneal transplant procedure, and if you suffer from either keratoconus or corneal scarring, your doctor will likely recommend a full-thickness transplant.  During this procedure, the surgeon will cut through the entire surface of the abnormal cornea.  Following the cut, the small disc of the cornea will be removed and it will be replaced with the new donor cornea and stitched into place.  The stitches will then be removed during a future appointment.

Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty

The layers of the central cornea are replaced with the donor tissue.  With this procedure, the Descemets membrane is left in place.

Endothelial Keratoplasty

This is a newer procedure that can allow the patient to see clearly within weeks rather than having to wait a full year.  Instead of using a thickness corneal transplant, the procedure is done with little to no sutures.

Lamellar keratoplasty

While leaving healthy layers in place, the ophthalmologist will selectively replace diseased layers.

Penetrating keratoplasty

Using a cutting device, the donated cornea will replace the circular part of the cornea.  The tissue will then be sewn with the sutures.

What are the extra costs?

An initial exam, as explained above, before the surgery begins, can be an additional charge of $100 to $200.

In some circumstances, your body may reject the corneal transplant in the first few years.  If this were to happen, additional surgeries or medical attention would be required.

Following the surgery, those who receive a transplant will need to receive an eye exam monthly to check for complications after the surgery.  The average eye exam, without any insurance involved, can cost about $100.

Eye drops and oral medication will be required following the surgery to help prevent any swelling, pain and/or infection.  Plan on taking it for at least six months.

Tips to know

Risks, according to the Vision Eye Institute, may include an infection, rejection of the donor cornea, increased clouding in the lens, swelling and/or bleeding.

How can I save money?

Some hospitals and medical clinics offer to reduce or waive all fees for patients who are not covered with medical insurance coverage or meet certain income requirements.  Talk with the hospital’s finance department for more information.

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