Maharashtra reported a 116 per cent collection of eyeballs from deceased donors between April 2013 and March 2014, but the number of keratoplasties carried out in the state dipped by 230 as compared to the previous year.
Data recorded by the Directorate of Health Services showed that the government, through 158 eye donation centres (including those run by municipal corporations, NGOs and private centres) across the state, collected 7,653 eyeballs from donors in 2013-14 — 1,053 more than its annual target of 6,600. The number of keratoplasties or corneal transplant surgeries performed during the last year, however, was only 2,577. Only 34 per cent of the collected eyeballs were, hence, used for transplants to restore the vision of visually challenged individuals.
Eyeball collection and keratoplasties are carried out by the state government under the Centrally-funded National Programme for Control of Blindness. The programme has a budgetary sanction of Rs 16 crore.
The reasons for the relatively low percentage of keratoplasties are, however, varied. “Not all eyeballs that are collected are viable for keratoplasties. After receiving the eyeballs, they are tested on various counts for viability and then approved for transplant. Usually, only 30-35 per cent are found viable. Those not found viable are sent to medical colleges,” said an official from the directorate.
Multiple factors come into play in order to determine the viability of collected eyeballs. These include age, communicable diseases, eye infections, low cell count or accidental cases of drowning. “Even in case of unidentified bodies, eyeballs are labeled unviable for transfer,” the official said. “Eye donation is received mostly from deceased donors. Cases of brain dead donors are very rare,” he added.
“If a donor has pledged his/her eyes, the eye donation centre cannot refuse to accept the eyeballs,” said the official.
“However, there are about 20-25 criteria that determine the viability of collected eyeballs,” a senior official told The Indian Express.
While Mumbai recorded the highest eyeball collection of 2,532, the number of keratoplasties carried out, however, was only 663.
While no corneal transplant was carried out in 15 districts of the state last year, the highest number of surgeries — 78 — were performed in Solapur that collected 100 eyeballs.
In Beed district, the eyeball collection last year was 65. However, no transplant were reported.
The eyeballs of a donor have to be collected within six hours of death and can be preserved in an eye bank for four to five days. The collection target for each district is determined based on the number of eye donation centres and eye banks located in the district.