Eye banks retrieve and store eyes for cornea transplants and research. The first eye bank was founded in 1944 in New York.
"Recovery" refers to the retrieval of organs or tissues from a deceased organ donor. Recovery is currently the preferred term, although "harvesting" and "procurement" have been used in the past, they are considered inappropriate, harsh, and potentially inaccurate. When an organ/tissue donor dies, consent for donation is obtained either from a donor registry or from the donor's next of kin. A recovery technician is then dispatched to the hospital, funeral home, or medical examiner's office to recover the donor's eyes. The recovery occurs within hours of the death of the donor. The entire eye, called the globe, may be surgically removed (enucleated), or only the cornea may be excised in-situ and placed in storage media. There is a wide variety of storage media used in eye banking. Commercial preparations as well as organ culture medium can preserve corneas. The eye tissue is then transported to the eye bank for processing.
A sample of the donor's blood is also collected to test for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human cytomegalovirus, syphilis, and sometimes others. Theblood type is also tested, although corneas do not receive any blood supply and match typing is not necessary for transplantation.
If the entire eye is enucleated during the original recovery, then the cornea and part of the sclera are removed and placed in a container with preservation medium, and the sclera is cleaned and then preserved in alcohol. The corneas are visually examined and evaluated underneath a slit-lamp, and the number of endothelial cells are counted underneath a specular microscope. The corneas are rated, usually on a scale of 0-4, for donor suitability based on the specular and slit-lamp evaluations.