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Dakota Lions Sight & Health Offers Advanced Procedure To Save Time and Enhance Cornea Transplant Surgeries

Dec 08, 2017 10:16AM ● By Alex Strauss
Dakota Lions Sight and Health is now providing pre-loaded cornea tissues for transplant surgeries – just one of a few eye banks in the nation to offer this new, advanced service for cornea transplants. 

In this innovative procedure, a DLSH lab technician prepares Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) tissues for surgery and then packages the eye tissue in a specially made container. The primary benefit of the pre-loaded DMEK grafts is to save time for surgeons while they’re in the operating room. “Our pre-loaded DMEKs will allow surgeons to focus solely on their patient, rather than spending precious time preparing the graft for transplant,” explained Marcy Dimond, Dakota Lions Sight & Health CEO. “Our goal is to offer a new level of confidence and convenience to the surgeons.” 

John Berdahl, MD, is among the first ophthalmologists in the area to use DMEK pre-loads from DLSH in corneal surgery. “The pre-loaded grafts reduce the chance that tissue will be damaged in the OR, and also saves time by improving surgical flow,” Dr. Berdahl explained.  

Before pre-loaded DMEK grafts were available, surgeons spent time in the operating room preparing the graft -- even after hours of preparation at the eye bank. This surgical prep time often extended surgery time by 30 minutes. The pre-loads allow surgeons to complete the procedure in less than half that time. 

While DMEK graft procedures have been performed since 2013, the pre-loaded DMEK grafts were just introduced in 2017. Dimond said DLSH is the smallest of the handful of eye banks to that currently offer pre-loaded DMEKs. 

The pre-load procedure involves a lab technician removing the cornea cells from the donor tissue, preparing the graft for transplant, and then loading it into a Straiko Modified Jones Tube for transfer to the clinic. Dimond said each surgeon has certain specifications for the transplant tissue they use, and DLSH is able to meet each physician’s exacting standards. 

A growing use for the DMEK grafts is in the treatment of Fuchs’ Dystrophy, a hereditary degenerative disease that causes cells in the corneal layer (the endothelium) to die off. These cells normally pump fluid from the cornea to keep it clear. When they die, fluid builds up and the cornea gets swollen and puffy. Vision becomes cloudy or hazy. Also, tiny blisters may form in the cornea, causing eye pain.

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