The Call : An eye bank receives a call from a hospital or an organ procurement organization or another “federally designated” third party that an individual has died and has met preliminary criteria for donation. The eye bank has a very short time within which to contact the next of kin, obtain consent and recover the tissue. This generally needs to happen within 12 hours of the time of death.
The Contact : The eye bank contacts the next of kin, as defined by state law and the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), to obtain consent for the donation of the individual’s corneas.
The Consent : If consent is given, the next of kin is asked to complete a medical-social history. The medical-social history provides the eye bank with information to make a donor eligibility determination.
The Donor Medical Review : After consent is given, the eye bank obtains copies of relevant medical records for review from the hospital, a step in the process of creating a complete donor profile. Eye banks pay close attention to the cause of death, any medications that were administered to the individual and if there was any blood loss.
The Physical Inspection : If there are not any medical “rule outs,” an eye bank technician performs a physical inspection of the donor. This physical inspection contributes to the donor profile, and screens for physical signs of infectious disease or behavior that may have put them at risk, such as intravenous drug use. The technician also draws a sample of blood from the donor to be tested for HIV I and II, Hepatitis B and C, and Syphilis.
The Storage : After removing the cornea, the tissue is placed in a storage medium. This medium keeps the tissue viable and helps to reduce bacterial growth. The technician then transports the cornea to the eye bank’s laboratory for refrigeration.
The Evaluation : Specially trained technicians evaluate the cornea through microscopes to ensure that it meets the eye bank’s strict criteria for transplantation.
The Eligibility Determination : The eye bank’s medical director or his/her designee reviews the records for the donor and makes a final eligibility determination.
The Release of Tissue : If the medical director or his/her designee authorizes release of the tissue, the cornea is then sealed and packed in a container in wet ice (to ensure it remains between 2-8 degrees and does not freeze).
The Transport : The cornea is labeled with a unique identification number to allow the eye bank to track the tissue from donor to recipient. It is then shipped to a surgeon or another eye bank for transplant.