Indore: Covid casts its evil eye on cornea transplant, negligible eye donations in last two years

Indore: The deadly Covid-19 has been taking a toll on eye patients, who require cornea transplant, as there is an acute shortage of corneal tissue in the city. According to experts, the shortage of corneal tissue is not just pervasive in the city or state but across the country, thanks to restrictions imposed by the government to ensure safe donation and transplant of cornea, following the spread of Covid-19

As per NGO Muskan Group, the number of corneal donations in the city this year is only 28 so far which were retrieved from 14 people, including seven in January and February, and five to six in July.

“Retrieval of corneal tissue remained suspended during the peak of first and second wave of Covid-19. The new guidelines for the retrieval of cornea require RT-PCR report of the deceased and other measures which are seen as disincentives to the family members of donors,” Muskan Group’s Jitu Bagani said.

He added that the number of corneal transplants was very high in Indore till 2019 but the number has decreased since the outbreak of the disease.

“At present, the waiting time for cornea in the city is about 60 but the number of cornea present is negligible,” Bagani said.

Ophthalmologist Dr OP Agrawal said, “Fewer donations have led to a serious shortage of the corneal tissue needed for transplants to restore vision in people suffering from loss of eyesight due to irreparable damage of the tissue.”

“Usually, about 25-30 surgeries of corneal tissue transplant takes place in the city in a month but it has been dropped to 2-3 post the outbreak of Covid and that too only in emergency cases. Last month, we were able to get two corneas for two patients from Uttar Pradesh and Kerala with the help of MK International Eye Bank. Voluntary eye donation is the main source of cornea tissue but it has been badly affected due to Covid-19,” Dr Agrawal said.

He said that patients suffering from cornea rupture due to accident, ulcer in cornea, or any major infection in the eye require immediate corneal tissue transplant as delay can lead to loss of vision.

Executive director of MK International Eye Bank Uma Jhawar said, “Corneal transplants have come down by more than 90 per cent in 2020 and 2021, because either people are not coming forward to donate eyes of the dead or there is no Covid-negative test report. The waiting list is lengthening.”

She said that it is important to raise awareness about eye donation. Families of people expiring due to non-Covid reasons should voluntarily contact eye banks and donate their loved one’s eyes to give a new lease of life to the needy.

“As per the guidelines, a person who has died in a hospital can donate his/her eyes as the cause of death is known and a quick Covid test can be run to rule out infection. People who want to donate the eyes of their loved ones must try to get the RT-PCR test when they feel that ‘it’s time’.” -Dr Sanjay Dixit, Dean, MGM Medical College.

“Voluntary eye donation is the major source of corneal tissue and it is badly hit due to Covid19. It is important to give a push to the drive again to save many lives.” -Dr OP Agrawal, Ophthalmologist.

“The Eye Bank Association of India suggests that eye donation can be done after learning the medical history of the deceased. If he/she didn’t have Covid for one month before death, donation can be done. With decreasing Covid cases, the number of donations will increase and we are following all safety norms for the same.” -Uma Jhawar, executive director MK International Eye Bank.

“The number of eye donations in our country is already less than the requirement of corneal tissue transplant. As the cases of Covid-19 have been decreasing, people must come forward voluntarily to give a new lease of life to the needy.” -Jitu Bagani, Transplant coordinator, Muskan Group.

Cornea donation in Indore in last few years (as per Indore Organ Donation Society)

Year Cornea donation

2012 576

2013 795

2014 638

2015 775

2016 451

2017 518

2018 498

2019 1034

2020 320

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