Corneal Transplantation and Donation The cornea is the clear ‘Dome–like’ window covering the front of the eye that allows light to pass through it to the retina, which in turn enables us to see. To see clear, the cornea must remain healthy. A corneal transplant is the transfer of corneal tissue from a donor to a recipient. Whole eye transplants are not possible. People who suffer from certain neurological (nervous system) conditions may not be eligible as donors.
Condition that require a transplant:
- When their cornea has deteriorated to a point where they can no longer see properly.
Some diseases which can cause the cornea to deteriorate are:
- Keratoconus: In this condition, the central cornea thins and bulges forward. This prevents light from being focused correctly into the eye.
- Bullous Keratopathy: This is a generic term for corneal swelling and blistering. The cornea becomes cloudy and gradually loses clarity. It is caused by damage to the cells responsible for keeping the cornea clear and healthy.
- Fuch’s Dystrophy: A condition which causes cells in the cornea to deteriorate.
- Herpetic Eye Disease: Scarring of the cornea caused by the Herpes virus.
- Perforated cornea due to an accident or as the result of disease like rheumatoid arthritis.
Success of Corneal Transplants The survival rate after corneal transplants is:
- After one year – 91.2%.
- After four years – 80%.
- Some conditions (such as keratoconus) have even higher success rates – 98.1%.
Corneal Donation The only substitute for a human cornea is another human cornea. Corneal transplant surgery would not be possible without the thousands of generous donors and their families who have donated corneal tissue so that others may see. When consent for donation is given, corneas must be surgically removed from a deceased person within twelve hours of their death. Very few conditions exclude people from corneal donation.
Become a Donor If you wish to be a donor after your death, the most important thing to do is to tell your family of your wishes. In addition, because it is not always routine for the hospital to approach the family about eye donation, the family should raise the issue with the hospital staff within a few hours of death.