For someone with a damaged cornea, a corneal transplant is often their last hope of restoring vision. This sight-saving operation is only possible because someone chose to donate their cornea after their death.
The New Zealand National Eye Bank is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the prevention of blindness through the provision of donated corneal and other tissues.
Since 1991 the Eye Bank has supplied over 7000 corneas to New Zealanders, from a facility based in The University of Auckland's Grafton campus.
Currently around 300 people require a corneal transplant each year - from the young to the elderly - due to disorders where the cornea becomes cloudy, scarred, infected, or distorted in shape.
Unlike with modern artificial lenses, there is no artificial cornea, so a viable cornea from a recently deceased person is the only option. Without a transplant, many of these people would become blind or severely vision impaired.
Tissues collected, stored, and distributed throughout New Zealand include:
- Donated eyes that provide corneas for sight restoration, where the cloudy or diseased recipient cornea is replaced by a clear, healthy donor cornea.
- Sclera (the tough white part of the eye) that can be used for reconstructive surgery following trauma or tumour removal.
- Amniotic membrane derived from the newborn placenta, that can be used as a ‘living bandage’ for ocular surface disorders following infection, injury, or disease processes.
Collected and distributed by the NZ Eye Bank
The New Zealand Eye Bank is closely affiliated with several different organisations: