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Waiting list for corneal transplantation at AIIMS grows threefold after Covid-19

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 until now, reviving eye bank services after a lull brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic in the previous two years.

According to Dr JS Titiyal, professor and director of the Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at the AIIMS, the waiting list both before and after the Covid-19 outbreak has exacerbated the load on the facility. He claimed that despite a great demand, there is a limited quantity of corneal tissue.

Dr Titiyal reports that the number of people on the waiting list for cornea transplants has increased by three, and there are currently 1,300 people on the list as a result 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.

A press conference was held on Wednesday by the AIIMS ophthalmology specialists to announce the start of the 37th National Eye Donation Fortnight. A more centralised method for the distribution and collecting of corneal tissues is required, according to Dr Titiyal. ‘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 added.

The head of the NEB and professor at the department of ophthalmology, Dr Radhika Tandon, stated that during the Covid pandemic, medical professionals also employed a novel approach in which they used the patient’s own tissue to save the eyes.

A 100% online death notification mechanism has been implemented at the AIIMS, as per Dr Aarti Vij, department head of the Organ Retrieval Banking Organization (ORBO), which is assisting the eye bank counsellors and technicians in reaching out to more families.

To encourage eye donation, the NEB AIIMS is also organising a number of awareness campaigns in schools, universities, and residential areas.

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