Demand for cornea transplant increases amid pandemic
The Coronavirus pandemic has adversely impacted the eye banking sector from March to July, resulting in tissue collection and keratoplasty surgeries coming to a screeching halt. After the resumption, the waiting list for surgeries has now increased.
"This year, the eye banking sector has been one of the worst casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown measures implemented to contain the spread of the virus have adversely impacted both corneal tissue collection and keratoplasty surgeries," said Dr Aarti Vij of AIIMS.
No tissues were collected by the National Eye Bank, AIIMS during the period from March to July, she said, ruing that hundreds of patients requiring keratoplasty could not be operated upon.
"However, emergency keratoplasty surgeries were performed with previously retrieved glycerin preserved tissues during this period," she said.
"After the temporary halt in corneal tissue retrieval during the lockdown, we have resumed corneal tissue collection via the HCRP since July 1. However, the waiting list of the patients awaiting keratoplasty surgery has further increased because of the pandemic," Dr Vij added.
The National Blindness and Visual impairment Survey report released last year jointly by AIIMS's Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences and Health Ministry reported the overall prevalence of blindness in the country is 0.36 per cent.
Among the people aged less than 50 years of age, the corneal disease was the leading cause of blindness, accounting for 37.5 per cent of the cases.
The prevalence of blindness among the population with age more than 50 years age was 1.99 per cent, with corneal blindness being the second most common cause in this group, accounting for 8.2 per cent of the cases.
Till now, more than 31,000 corneas have been collected by AIIMS National Eye Bank in Delhi.
It has visually rehabilitated over 22,000 corneal blind patients from all over the country by means of corneal transplantation.
"We have collected 2,055 tissues last year, the NEB achieved a new landmark by collecting more than 2,000 tissues per annum for 2 years in succession," said a doctor from AIIMS.
She added: "For the past 5 years, more than 1,000 corneal transplant surgeries have been performed consistently. In 2019, 1,721 corneal blind patients received corneal transplants. This amounts to a record utilisation rate of 83.7 per cent, which is much greater than the national average."