The cornea differs from other organs offered for transplantation because there is no upper age limit to donation, it can be retrieved up to 24 hours after death, can be stored for short periods before use and can usually be transplanted without having to match blood groups.
There are two Cornea Transplant Service eye banks - in Bristol and Manchester - where donated corneas can be kept in carefully controlled conditions for between 10 and 30 days. This enables staff to ensure that there is no infection or other problem that would preclude their use.
Each cornea is examined before being sent out to check that it is of a suitable standard for transplantation.
Patients who are closest in age to the donor are usually selected as recipients, wherever they live in the country.
Tissue typing and blood group matching is used in a small number of cases where there has been a rejection of a previous graft.