Eye Donation Process
Referral & Initial Screening for Eye Donation
When a death occurs, the hospital or related medical facility places a call to one of three organ procurement organizations in Heartland Lions Eye Banks' tri-state area (Missouri, Kansas and Illinois). The organ procurement organization, in turn, passes on information to the Eye Bank donor services center (DSC). After gathering initial information, the organizations work together to determine if the individual had registered as an eye, organ and tissue donor.
When consent for donation has been given, the DSC consults medical records and conducts a medical and social history interview with a member of the donor's family.
Eye Tissue Recovery
After conducting its initial screening, the DSC dispatches a trained technician from one of our six eye bank branch locations or a satellite office. Since eye tissue must be recovered within a few hours of a patient's death, the Eye Bank has technicians on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the Eye Bank determines that the tissue is likely to be suitable for transplantation, the technician performs an in situ procedure to gently remove the cornea. The cornea is immediately placed in preservation media so it can be safely transported and stored until transplant.
Corneal Tissue Evaluation
At the Eye Bank, the corneal tissue is further evaluated for possible transplantation. A high cell count within the cornea is desirable and indicative of healthier tissue.
In some cases, the cornea is used for a full cornea transplant. However, doctors may request tissue to perform a Descemet's Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) surgery, in which only the inner layer of the cornea is transplanted. To meet these requests, technicians in our Kansas City lab can cut the tissue for DSAEK surgery.
A blood sample taken from the donor during the tissue retrieval is sent out for testing to detect the presence of infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis B or C. All blood samples are tested prior to distribution to eliminate the threat of infectious disease.
Corneal Tissue Distribution
After a cornea has been cleared for transplant, the Eye Bank's Tissue Distribution Coordinator meets a corneal surgeon's needs by offering tissue for transplant. All corneal tissue is first offered to surgeons in our three-state region before being distributed nationally and then internationally. Although corneas can be stored for up to two weeks, U.S. physicians usually prefer to transplant donor tissue within five days.