Cornea donation in 2017 was highest in 52 years: National Eye Bank chairman

National Eye Bank chairman Jeewan S Titiyal said Tuesday that a record 1,844 corneas were retrieved from donors in 2017, the highest in the past 52 years.

“As many as 1,285 corneal transplant surgeries were conducted last year, which amounts to a utilisation rate of 70 per cent,” he said.

A window of “six to eight hours” after the death of a person is considered the “optimum time” on an average for donation of eyes for transplant surgery, but in some cases corneas have also been accepted after 24 hours, the senior doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here said.

Titiyal was addressing a press conference at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at the premier health institute to mark the 33rd Eye Donation Fortnight celebrations.

“Six hours is the cut-off period for donation of eyes in places where the climate is warm and humid, and about eight hours in cold conditions or where the body has been kept in cooled environment having a refrigerator or air-cooling system,” he said when asked if there was ‘golden hour’ for eye donation vis-a-vis organ donation. “Well, there is no golden hour define as such, but (the period of) 6-8 hours is considered the optimum time on an average. But, in controlled situation, we have had cases where surgeries have been done with eyes donated even after 24 hours,” the senior doctor said.

Titiyal said that of the eyes donated at NEB, about 60 per cent are those which were given within eight hours while most of the corneal donations came within six hours.

According to AIIMS, the ongoing hospital cornea retrieval programme (HCRP) has led to an increase in “good quality donor corneas” and utilisation rate of more than 80 per cent. “HRCP has given us really good results and better optical grade tissues from donors,” he said.

“Also, our 100 per cent online death notification system has been helping our eye bank counsellors and technicians to approach more number of families,” he added.

“We have already six hospitals attached to our network through the HCRP programme. In future, we would like to include all government hospitals and big private hospitals in this network and collect tissues, process them and distribute to all transplant centres according to the waiting list priority,” Titiyal said.

“The six hospitals are — DDU Hospital, GTB Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College, RML Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital and ESI Hospital,” he added.

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