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Home > Services > National Organ Transplant Unit
Eye Tissue Donation



Eye Tissue Donation


Image courtesy healtheyes.org.uk

What is the role of the eye bank?
a) To educate the public about the ongoing need for eye donations and its benefits to transplantation, medical education and research
b) The procurement, processing and distribution of eye tissue


What ocular tissue can be used?
All can be used, the cornea and sclera can be used in transplant and other surgeries such as in glaucoma filtration, and the other tissues can be used in research.


 

 

Why should eyes be donated?
There is no substitute for human tissue. One pair of eyes donated at death allows the donor to leave a living legacy giving vision to two corneal blind persons.


When can they be removed?
Eyes may be donated only after death. This is done within 4-6 hours after death, procurement takes a short time. Blood is taken at the same time for testing to rule out communicable diseases.


What is the cornea and how do corneal transplants restore sight?
The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the front of the eye. Looking through the cornea we see the coloured part (iris) of the eye. If the cornea becomes clouded through disease or injury, vision is impaired and sometimes lost entirely.


Who can donate eyes?
Almost everyone can donate his or her eyes. Persons who were infected with or died from AIDS, Hepatitis B or C, rabies, septicemia, acute leukemia, tetanus, cholera, meningitis or encephalitis cannot donate eyes. Donor tissue that is not medically suitable for transplant can, with consent, be used for medical research and education.


How can I donate my eyes?
There are two very important steps you must take to become a donor. First, sign donor card and carry it with you.  Second, TALK TO YOUR FAMILY.  You must let you family members know that you wish to be an eye donor. Even if your donor card is available at the time of death, your next of kin will be responsible for granting consent. It can be a difficult decision for them if your wishes are not known. Having a discussion about donation with your family is the first step in the effort to restore sight and save lives.


Is there a cost to donate?
There is no cost to donate. Transplant agencies pay any costs associated with recovery of organs and tissues from donors.


Would donating delay funeral arrangements?
Donating should not delay funeral arrangements. It may take additional time, usually no more than four hours, to coordinate the donation process with the funeral home, and for any extra efforts taken to prepare the body for presentation.


Can we have an open casket?
Eye donation does not prevent having an open casket service


Does my religion support eye, organ and tissue donation?
All major religions support donation. However, if you have any concerns about your religion's position, please get in touch with your religious leader / representative.


Is cancer a rule-out for donation?
No, cancer does not automatically prohibit eye donation, since tissue which is not suitable for transplant can be used for research.


If I wear glasses can I still donate?
Yes you can! People who have poor vision and wear glasses, or have had previous eye disease or surgery can still donate, since these conditions may not affect the cornea. Eyes donated to the eye-bank that are not medically suitable for transplant may be used for medical research and education. For example if you have had LASIX surgery you can donate for research and medical education.


Are families told who will receive the donation?
It is the eye-bank policy to keep donor and recipient identities completely confidential. However, certain information can be shared and the eye-bank can offer to conduct correspondence between donor families and recipients as long as the identities are kept anonymous. Recipients may send thank-you notes to their donor family via the eye-bank.


Can the family designate a recipient?
It is possible to designate a recipient although it is fairly unlikely that a donation would occur in a timely manner to facilitate a needed transplant. However, if at the time of death a family member is in need of a cornea transplant the eye-bank will make every effort to match donor tissue with that person.


What kind of research is done with eye donations?
Research into diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and diseases of the retina (e.g. macular degeneration) are advanced through eye donation.


Who needs a corneal transplant?
Persons who are suffer from poor vision or loss of vision due mainly or partly to corneal disease or injury causing clouding, irregularity or scars of the cornea, can regain vision with transplant surgery.


How long do recipients usually wait for a cornea?
If the eye banking facilities are available locally, then the corneal transplant surgery is typically an elective procedure allowing the surgeon and patient to choose the most convenient day for the surgery to take place.


How long can a cornea be stored?
The eye-bank does keep a "bank" of tissue in its laboratory. Fortunately, cornea tissue can be preserved and stored for several days before it must be used for transplant. However, since the demand for ocular tissue is so great most donor tissue is distributed within a day or two after its arrival.


What happens to unused tissue?
Tissue not used for transplantation or research is disposed of in an ethical manner.
 

 

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