Most of the tissue used for penetrating keratoplasty is issued through eye banks that store the corneoscleral button either in hypothermic storage at 2–6°C or in organ culture at 31–37°C.
These two preservation techniques differ in technical aspects, tissue evaluation possibilities, storage time and microbiological safety. Hypothermic storage is simple and requires little expensive equipment. In general a pre-storage evaluation of the endothelium is performed by specular microscopy and storage time is usually around 7–10 days. Organ culture is a relatively complicated technique requiring more expertise and well-equipped facilities. Evaluation of the endothelium is not only performed before storage, but is routinely performed after storage through the use of light microscopy. With organ culture the allowed storage period is longer, up to four weeks. The vulnerability of organ culture to microbial contamination can be turned into an advantage because it allows the detection of residual micro-organisms on the cornea before surgery. Both preservation techniques seem to result in similar graft survival.
The method of choice for preservation of the donor cornea is dictated by a number of factors mentioned in this review and this helps to explain the geographical differences in the use of the different techniques.