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March 20, 2015 at 10:07 am

Here’s Why More Than Half The Donated Eyes End Up In The Dustbin

More than 2.5 lakh blind people in India could regain eyesight if they get a corneal transplant, but more than 22,000 eyes donated last year went waste due to delay or infections.

Union health ministry data shows 51,354 eyes were donated in 2013-14, but only 22,384 were used for transplant. The numbers have remained dismal over the past few years, with more than 50% of the donated eyes going waste.  “The delay often occurs when family members of the deceased do not inform the nearest eye bank about the death. In time of grief, they do not think about it. And even if they do, the window period lapses as eyes have to be retrieved within six hours after death,” said senior cornea surgeon Dr Ashwin Agarwal of Agarwal Eye Hospitals, Chennai.

Iris

Reuters

The removed eyes should be implanted in the next 24 hours, or stored at an eye bank, where it could be preserved for up to 14 days. Many harvested eyes are rendered useless because of infections. “We perform a blood test on the deceased, and if we find they have any infection, the eyes are declared unfit for transplant,” Dr Agarwal said. Eyes of those with a history of trauma or previous surgeries are of little use. While hospital-based cornea retrieval is easy, there is lack of awareness among the public towards eye donation, said consultant cornea surgeon Dr M P Veenashree of Global Hospitals. “In a country of more than a billion people, only a few thousands come forward to donate their eyes. Moreover, unlike big metros, small towns do not have enough donation counsellors to facilitate the process,” she said.

Eye Donation Statistics

TOI

Senior ophthalmologist Dr E Ravindra Mohan of Trinethra Eye Care said the inclusion criteria for eye donation were very vast so a certain degree of wastage is natural. “We never say no to anyone who wants to donate their eyes, regardless of the condition of the organ. After running tests when we diagnose that the corneas are unfit, those eyes are considered a waste,” he said.

Medical experts say that it is not necessary that an eye should be used wholly and only on one person. “It is possible to use only a few layers of the cornea or the sclera. But poor upkeep of eyes result in its quality decreasing,” said Dr Mohan.

The doctor pointed out that lack of coordination among eye banks adds to eyes being wasted. “Unlike the cadaver donation programme in Tamil Nadu that works in a seamless manner, there is no free flow of information between eye banks to facilitate eye donations. There should be better co-ordination among them and they should be open to sharing,” he said.

(This article was originally published in The Times of India).