Kentucky Lions Eye Center
Kentucky Lions Eye Center

On January 1, 2017, the Kentucky Lions Eye Bank in Louisville and the Lexington Lions Eye Bank merged into a single Eye Bank serving the entire state of Kentucky and portions of West Virginia. The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky announced the unification of all Eye Banking services, including procurement of donor tissue and distribution of corneas for transplant, into one organization serving the entire state of Kentucky.

“This merger is the culmination of 25 years of negotiation and work behind the scenes to better serve the people of Kentucky,” said Tom Van Etten, of Louisville, past Lions Eye Foundation chair.

Previously, the Louisville Lions Eye Bank, affiliated with the UofL, served the western part of the state; the Eye Bank of Lexington, affiliated with the University of Kentucky, served the eastern part of Kentucky and parts of West Virginia. The new Kentucky Lions Eye Bank serves the same geographical area as Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates to effectively coordinate corneal donation with organ and tissue donation statewide. 

Corneal transplantation is a separate procedure that replaces all or part of a diseased cornea, improving sight, stabilizing diseased eyes and improving comfort in patients with severe corneal pathology. In 2015, there were 79,000 corneal transplants performed in the United States, and there were 470 donors of ocular tissue from Kentucky. Cornea transplants have a 95 percent success rate, and the lifetime economic benefit of corneal transplants performed in 2013 in the United States was $5.5 billion. The leading indication for corneal transplantation in 2016 was keratoconus, followed by corneal edema, Fuchs dystrophy and corneal scars.

The newly merged Kentucky Lions Eye Bank positions the state of Kentucky to efficiently coordinate with other eye banks in the U.S. to provide corneas for transplant in the state of Kentucky and assist with medical needs elsewhere when possible.

For the immediate future, the laboratories at UofL and UK will remain functional as operations will continue in both cities. They gradually will be centralized in Louisville throughout the next five years.

“The merged Eye Bank will be an asset to the state of Kentucky and should provide the resources for the state to be a national provider of donor ocular tissue to restore sight and to assist in research of blinding diseases,” said Henry J. Kaplan, MD, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Louisville.

More information is available on the organization’s new website.