Cornea donation is necessary for the preservation and restoration of sight. That’s because the
cornea is the clear dome-like window covering the front of the eye that allows the light to pass
through to the retina, which enables us to see.
In case of cornea donation, for which most deceased individuals are potential donors, an eye
bank receives a call from a hospital, an organ recovery agency or another federally designated
third party that an individual has died and has met preliminary criteria for donation. Cornea
donation usually happens within 12 hours of death. The state donor registry is searched and if the
potential donor is not found on the registry, the donor’s legally authorized representative (usually
a spouse, relative or close friend) is given the opportunity to authorize the donation. In addition,
they are asked for the donor’s medical and social history, which provides the eye bank with
information to help determine donor eligibility. The donor profile is screened for physical signs
of infectious disease or behavior that may have put them at risk, such as intravenous drug use.
Corneas are evaluated for cell count and clarity of the tissue. That information, together with the
donor’s age, is used to determine which patient will receive the cornea for transplant. Whenever
possible, eye banks try to place the cornea with a patient that is close in age to the donor to help
ensure that the cornea will last throughout the patient’s lifetime. Corneas are transplantable for
up to 14 days after recovery (Eye Bank Association of America, 2010).