After a lull caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years, eye bank services have witnessed a resurgence as the National Eye Bank (NEB) at The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, collected 872 corneal tissues and 765 corneal blind patients underwent transplantation from the end of 2021 till now.
However, the waiting list before and after the Covid–19 pandemic has increased the burden on the institute, said Dr JS Titiyal, professor and head of Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at the AIIMS. He said that while cornea tissue is in high demand, the supply is less.
According to Dr Titiyal, there has been a three-fold rise in the waiting list of patients looking to get cornea transplants and around 1,300 patients are on the list because of the Covid backlog.
“As far as we are concerned, in the year 2018-19, we conducted around 1,500-1,700 surgeries and collected 2,300 cornea tissues. The numbers reduced in 2020-2021 wherein 394 tissues were collected and 311 transplants were performed but towards the third wave of the pandemic; From 2021 end to early this year, the numbers rose to 765 surgeries and 872 corneal tissues were collected,” said Dr Titiyal.
The AIIMS ophthalmology doctors were conducting a press conference Wednesday announcing the 37th National Eye Donation Fortnight which begins Thursday.
Dr Titiyal said that there needs to be a more centralised system of distribution and collection of corneal tissues. “In some parts of the country, there are eye banks with a good number of corneal tissues but fewer patients. A better distribution system is the need of the hour and due to a lopsided distribution the waiting list is increasing,” he said.
Dr Radhika Tandon, professor at the ophthalmology department and chairman of the NEB, said that during the Covid pandemic, the doctors also used a new technique where they used the patient’s own tissue to save eyes.
According to Dr Aarti Vij, department head of Organ Retrieval Banking Organization (ORBO) at the AIIMS, a 100 per cent online death notification system has been in place at the institute, which is helping the eye bank counselors and technicians to approach a greater number of families.
The NEB AIIMS is also organising several awareness programs in schools, colleges and residential areas to promote eye donation.