Home' Southern Health News : February 2013 Contents SOUTHERN HEALTH NEWS / FEBRUARY 2013 / 9
What is the Eye Bank of SA?
The Eye Bank of South Australia was set up
at Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) in 1982 and
was the first of its kind in Australasia. It was
set up to reduce the shortage of eye tissue
available for grafting and to avoid delays for
patients requiring a corneal transplant.
Since its formation, almost 3,000 corneas have
been donated to the Eye Bank with an average
of up to four collected per week.
What does the Eye Bank do?
The Eye Bank is the centre for collection,
storage, preparation and distribution of
corneas in South Australia. It also assists
research into eye disease.
Eye Bank staff are notified when a potential
donor, who meets preliminary donation
criteria, passes away. They then check the
patient’s medical history more thoroughly and
discuss the possibility of donation with the
Donor corneas must be stored within 12
hours of a person’s death and used for
transplantation within a week. If a donor
cornea is unsuitable for transplant, the eyes
may be used for research.
The Eye Bank collects donor corneas from
across the metropolitan Adelaide region and
the Fleurieu Peninsula, and from as far away as
What is a cornea?
The cornea is the clear dome-like surface at
the front of the eye. It is the main focusing
element and protects the inner structures of
the eye. When the cornea becomes opaque
due to either trauma or disease, light is unable
to reach the retina at the back of the eye
which significantly reduces sight.
What is a corneal transplant?
Aside from blood transfusions, corneal
transplants are the oldest and most common
form of human transplantation. The first
successful corneal transplant was performed
by Austrian ophthalmologist Eduard Zirm in
The operation, which can be performed in day
surgery, involves removing the damaged part of
the cornea and replacing it with a healthy piece
of cornea taken from the eye of a donor.
It can take up to a year for full vision to be
restored following the transplant.
Why do people require a corneal
Eye diseases such as keratoconus and bullous
keratopathy are common catalysts for corneal
Kerataoconus is a thinning of the central area
of the cornea, which is the front surface of the
eye. As a result of this thinning, the normally
round shape of the cornea is distorted and a
cone-like bulge develops, resulting in significant
Bullous keratopathy is a condition in which the
cornea becomes permanently swollen. This
occurs when the inner layer of the cornea – the
endothelium – has been damaged and is not
pumping fluid properly.
Other reasons for transplantation include
eye injury and ulcers, corneal scarring due
to trauma, hereditary or congenital corneal
clouding, or severe bacterial infection.
To fi nd out more about organ and tissue
donation, visit www.donatelife.gov.au
them at that time. We are able to follow up later
with information on the outcome and families
are so pleased about this feedback – it is a great
comfort to know that their loved one has helped
to improve someone else’s life.”
Margaret said it was important for families to
discuss the option of organ donation and know
each other’s final wishes.
“The organ donation rate could be dramatically
improved if more people discussed their wishes
with their family and registered their decision on
the Australian Organ Donor Register.
“Most people refuse because they don’t know
their loved one’s wishes. A simple discussion
around the kitchen table could mean the
The Eye Bank’s Medical Director Dr Richard Mills
said there had been many advances in corneal
transplant surgery and research since the 1980s,
with the Eye Bank attracting numerous overseas
researchers over the years.
“The collection, storage and use of corneal tissue
for transplantation has improved greatly over the
past 30 years,” Dr Mills said.
“Advances in microsurgical techniques, quality
control standards and the desire for corneal
surgeons to measure outcomes of corneal
transplantation have continued to incrementally
improve the success of corneal transplant surgery.
“However, corneal transplants do not last forever
and one of the greatest risks to a corneal graft
is rejection. So there is still much more research
needed to be done to help understand how to
prolong the survival of this precious gift.”
Dr Mills said the Eye Bank, together with the
corneal transplantation unit in the Department of
Ophthalmology at FMC, had attracted more than
40 overseas clinicians and scientists over the past
30 years, reflecting its international standing in
“The Flinders group is currently at the forefront
of gene therapy research to help protect corneal
grafts from rejection,” he said.
FMC is also home to the Australian Corneal Graft
Registry which has been operating since 1985.
It is an Australian-wide register of more than
24,000 human corneal transplants, and the
largest of its kind in the world. The register is
used to collect information about the outcomes
of corneal transplants that will inform clinical
practice about the reasons why some corneal
grafts do better than others.
“This allows corneal surgeons to make better
decisions about how to optimise the use of
corneal tissue collected by Eye Banks,” Dr Mills
‘The collection, storage
and use of corneal tissue
for transplantation has
improved greatly over the
past 30 years.’
DR RICHARD MILLS
Eye Bank of SA fast facts
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