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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska?

The Eye Bank is a not for profit organization whose mission is the recovery, evaluation, processing and distribution of donated human eye tissue for the purposes of corneal transplant, scleral implant, ocular research and professional instruction.

Can my poor eye sight or eye problems prohibit me from being an eye tissue donor?

Cataracts and cataract surgery are not a problem.   Poor eye sight and wearing glasses would also not prohibit you from becoming an eye tissue donor.  Glaucoma or prior retinal or lasik surgeries are not a problem, either.

Can cancer patients donate their eye tissue?

Yes, eye tissue from most cancer patients can be used for transplant.  There are only a very few exceptions to this.  Metastasis is rarely a problem either.

Can the whole eye be transplanted?

No, only the cornea can be transplanted.  The cornea is the clear front layer of the eye – similar to a window.  The sclera, the white part of the eye can be used as an implant if someone is in need of a false eye.

What is the cornea?

The cornea is the clear surface at the front of the eye.  It is the main focusing element of the eye.  Should the cornea become cloudy from disease, injury, infection, or any other cause, vision will be dramatically reduced or impossible.

What is a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is one of the most frequently performed human transplant procedures.  A corneal transplant is the surgical procedure which replaces a disc-shaped segment of an impaired cornea with a similarly shaped piece of a healthy donor cornea.  More than 90% of corneal transplantations successfully restore the corneal recipient’s vision.

Is there any cost to the donor’s estate or next-of-kin for the donation?

No, all costs associated with the eye tissue donation are the responsibility of the Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska.

Can the Eye Bank guarantee the donation will be used for transplant?

No, although our first priority is to use the cornea for transplant, if after a thorough medical evaluation, it is determined that the gift does not meet the criteria established for transplantation, the gift may be used for research and/or professional instruction, with next-of-kin consent.

How is the corneal tissue distributed for transplant?  

Nebraska surgeons call our office and schedule the corneal transplant.  We will distribute tissue from Nebraska donors to our Nebraska surgeons first.  If there are not transplants scheduled locally and we have donor tissue available, we will offer the tissue to other eye banks throughout the United States.  

How soon after the death must the eye tissue be recovered?

There are numerous variables with each donation, so each is evaluated on an individual basis.  The Eye Bank wants to make sure that the family takes the time they need – we do not want a family to feel rushed.  Tissue can still be transplantable if recovered 18 – 24 hours after the death; however, the tissue quality is better, and has a greater chance to be used for transplant, if recovered sooner.

Who will perform the eye tissue recovery?

Individuals that are trained by Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska perform all of the eye tissue recoveries.  These people are Eye Bank staff and technicians or contracted individuals throughout the state such as funeral directors and nurses.

How long does the recovery take?

Approximately 1-2 hours.  It should not interfere with funeral arrangements.

Where is the eye tissue donation performed?

At the hospital, the funeral home or if other tissues are donated, and with next-of-kin permission, it will often occur at the Nebraska Organ Recovery Services, in Omaha.

Will eye tissue donation affect the appearance of the donor?

Great care is taken to preserve the appearance of the donor.  We work with the funeral homes to ensure funeral arrangements are not interfered with.

Who will know how the eye tissue was used?

The next-of-kin who gave consent for donation or the individual who answers our medical and social questionnaire will be the only people who know, besides medical personnel involved in the donation process.   We will send a letter to these people with the outcome or disposition of the tissue.  The confidentiality of the donor, donor family, and recipient is strictly maintained.

Does being an eye donor affect funeral arrangements?

As with any medical procedure, the body is treated with dignity and respect.  Eye tissue donation occurs within hours of the death, so it will not delay funeral arrangements.

Are there any costs to my family?

Eye donation is a gift and there is no cost to the donor family.  It is illegal in the United States to buy or sell organs or tissues.

Will the quality of my medical treatment be affected?

Under no circumstances will your decision to be an eye tissue donor affect the quality of your health care.

Can the Eye Bank guarantee the donation will be used for transplant?

No, although our first priority is for transplantation.  If after a thorough medical evaluation, it is determined that your gift does not meet criteria established for transplant, it may be used for research and/or professional instruction with donor family consent.  Only 10 percent of all blindness in Nebraska is curable through corneal transplant.  The other 90 percent are waiting for a breakthrough in research.