At present, around 1.1 million people are corneal blind in India and the current annual transplant number in the country varies from 25,000 to 30,000.
Professor Surinder S Pandav, head of the department of ophthalmology at PGI, on Thursday while speaking at the closing ceremony of the 37th National Eye Donation Fortnight, said that around 2,800 patients are waiting for their corneal transplantation, but the hospital gets only 600-700 corneas every year.
Pandav said that effort was being made to reach out to common people, especially the youth, to disseminate awareness and to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of cornea.
“While over the years, the number of eye donations has increased steadily, the Covid years saw a sharp decline in donations owing mainly as there were several contraindications involved in the process of both collection and transplantations. In 2020-21, the eye bank collected 132 eyes and transplanted 113. We wore PPE kits, took several precautionary measures, had many checks and balances as we performed the surgeries, as we did not want any donation to go to waste. There are stringent quality checks during screening, where we examine if the cornea is fit to be transplanted, and this evaluation is critical. Some are used for transplantation, while the rest we use for research purposes,” he said.
The professor added that from 2021 till now, there has been 488 collections, with 333 transplantations. “Corneal
donation is possible only after death, and we are consistently trying to reach out to various sections of society for awareness, as with new technology and advancements, we can give many people the gift of vision, only if we have donations. The eye bank of PGI runs 24×7, and anyone can call to make a donation. In fact, we get many donations (close to 80 per cent) from the hospital itself, as the staff and counsellors work together to counsel relatives of the deceased. If someone hasn’t pledged their eyes, the process can be taken forward, with the consent of the relatives,” shared Professor Amit Gupta from the same department.
Professor AK Jain added that the aim of the department is to make the eye bank so big that it can donate tissues to hospitals across the region.