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Seeing because of someone else’s eyes

Eye tissue donors like Portland Trail Blazer Jerome Kersey have saved the eyesight of more than 30,000 people
Eye health
(Getty Images)

When we think about organ donation, we often think about the heart, kidney or liver, but eye tissue from deceased organ donors also can be gifted to patients in need of sight-saving surgeries.

Now surgeons at OHSU Casey Eye Institute are using a new technique called Halo graft, a patch made of donated corneal tissue, to perform tube shunt surgeries that prevent vision loss in glaucoma patients. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

Shandiz Tehrani, M.D., Ph.D., an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at Casey Eye Institute, has performed more than 100 surgeries using the Halo graft, which was developed by researchers at Lions VisionGift, Oregon’s eye bank. While topical medication and lasers are used in mild to moderate cases of glaucoma, patients with severe glaucoma often need surgery to prevent blindness.

Halo graft
The Halo graft is a patch made of donated corneal tissue and is used in surgical procedures to prevent vision loss in in glaucoma patients. (Lions VisionGift)

“In the past, donated corneal tissue use was limited by prior medical history and surgeries,” says Tehrani, an assistant professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine and member of the Medical Advising Committee of VisionGift. “With the advent of Halo, previously unused corneal tissue from one eye can now be used to create multiple Halo grafts and benefit up to four different glaucoma patients.”

Tehrani says Halo is now the mainstay for covering tube shunt implants at Casey Eye Institute and is improving the long-term success of the surgery.

“Halo grafts allow surgeons like Dr. Tehrani to maximize donated eye tissues and help save the eyesight of many more patients,” says Corrina Patzer, chief strategy officer at VisionGift. “For families who have lost loved ones that became eye tissue donors, learning that their gifts were used to save the eyesight of another person is often a significant comfort in what is such a dark moment in their lives.”

Portland's CBS affiliate, KOIN-TV, recently talked with Tehrani about beloved Portland Trailblazer Jerome Kersey, whose eye tissue was donated when he passed away in 2015. It was later revealed that his eye tissue was able to be preserved and then gifted to several glaucoma patients, including some at Casey Eye Institute, using the Halo graft.

Surgeons at Casey Eye Institute use donated eye tissue to treat glaucoma, corneal transplants and emergency ocular trauma repair, among others.

Learn more about becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor at Donate Life Northwest

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