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Eye Donation and Its Benefits
Donation of human eyes and corneal tissue is necessary for the restoration and preservation of sight. Of the nearly 45,000 cornea transplant operations performed each year, over 90% successfully restore vision to persons suffering from corneal blindness. Almost anyone can be an eye donor-cataracts, prior ocular surgery, diabetes, glaucoma, cancer, poor eyesight, and age do not necessarily prohibit one from donating. One eye donor can help up to six eye transplant recipients.
The Cornea and Sclera
The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped lens over the colored iris. The sclera, the white part of the eye, consists of the same tissue as the cornea. The cornea, however, is more hydrated, which gives it its clear appearance. About the size of a dime, the cornea is the transparent window that covers the pupil of the eye, similar to a watch crystal that protects a clock's face. Only 500 microns thick (about 1/2 a millimeter), the cornea has five layers, each of which performs a specific function.
The epithelium protects the cornea. Bowman's layer is smooth membranes composed of strong collagen fibers that help the cornea maintain its shape. The stroma comprises 90% of the cornea and consists of collagen fibers. These fibers are transparent due to their alignment. Descemet's membrane is the basement membrane that lies between the stroma and the endothelium. The endothelium consists of cells which act as a pump to keep the cornea clear.
We are born with roughly 4,000 of these cells which gradually die due to aging, injury, or disease. Once these cells can no longer keep the cornea clear (corneas can cloud at any age), a cornea transplant is required to restore vision.
Corneas can be used for restoring sight, repairing the integrity of the eye, and reconstruction. Sclera is used for glaucoma surgery, eyelid repair, and periodontal surgery.
Recovering Eye Tissue
CNYETB recovers eye tissue up to 15-17 hours after death. We recover transplantable eye tissue from suitable donors between ages 2 and 79 and research tissue from donors of all ages.
Upon notification of a potential donor, CNYETB conducts a thorough medical screening to determine donor suitability. Our professional staff then contacts the NY State Donate Life Registry and donor next-of-kin to obtain consent. CNYETB also completes a comprehensive donor medical and social history before recovering.
CNYETB recovers in hospital rooms, at hospital morgues, and at its own modern recovery suite, using standard surgical procedures. CNYETB's professional, skilled recovery technicians (including Certified Eye Bank Technicians) manage the recovery process. Eye area restoration is consistent with funeral director practices, and open casket funerals remain a viable option.
Recovered eye tissue is processed and evaluated at CNYETB's eye laboratory, then prepared for placement and transplant. CNYETB first meets transplant demand locally then statewide, regionally, nationally, and internationally for scheduled surgeries. Emergency surgeries have priority overall.
CNY Eye Surgeons & Transplants
CNYETB meets our local and regional ophthalmologists' surgical needs by providing pre-cut tissue for endothelial and anterior lamellar procedures; importing specialty tissue upon request; providing ocular tissue for research and training; and having eye tissue available 24-hours a day, seven days a week for surgeries.
For more information about CNYETB's eye tissue recovery, call 315-476-0199, ext 3975.
Latest Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) statistics available
The Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) produces an annual report of nationwide eye recoveries, corneal transplants, tissue suitability, and donors (by age and gender). Please see graphic below that includes a summary of the EBAA’s most recent data (2011 annual report) and please check back to our website as we will continue to post a synopsis of the statistics the EBAA generates in each of its annual reviews.