By Priyanka Sharma
New Delhi [India], Aug 25 (ANI): Doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi on Tuesday said that work related to eye banks has been one of the worst casualties of COVID-19 pandemic.
Ophthalmologists at the medical institute said lockdown measures implemented to contain the spread of virus adversely impacted both corneal tissue collection and keratoplasty surgeries.
Addressing the 35th Eye donation fortnight celebration by National Eye Bank (NEB) in which Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan was the chief guest, (Prof) Dr Jeewan S. Titiyal, professor of ophthalmology and Chairman National Eye Bank at RP Eye Centre of AIIMS said no tissues were collected by the NEB from March to July this year.
"Hundreds of patients requiring keratoplasty could not be operated upon. However, emergency keratoplasty surgeries were performed with previously retrieved glycerin preserved tissues during this period," he said.
"After the temporary halt in corneal tissue retrieval during the lockdown, we have resumed corneal tissue collection via the HCRP since July 1 this year. However, the waiting list of the patients awaiting keratoplasty surgery has further increased because of the pandemic," he added.
Dr Titiyal said doctors saw at least 40 per cent rise in the number of keratoplasties performed for corneal infections last year as compared to the year before that.
"Achieving some of the milestones that we aimed for this year, seem difficult and impossible now due to prevailing COVID situation in the country," he said.
Dr Titiyal said they were aiming for more than 3,000 corneal tissue collections, more than 2000 keratoplasty surgeries and use of drone for tissue transportation.
He said NEB has collected more than 31,000 corneas since its inception and has visually rehabilitated over 22,000 corneal blind patients from all over the country.
"We collected 2055 tissues last year. NEB achieved a new landmark by collecting more than 2000 tissues per annum for two years in succession. For the past five years, we have consistently performed more than 1000 corneal transplant surgeries per year. About 1721 corneal blind patients received corneal transplants last year. This amounts to a record utilization rate of 83.7 per cent, which is much greater than the national average of approximately 50 per cent," he said.
The National Blindness and Visual impairment Survey report released last year jointly by RP Centre and Health Ministry reported the overall prevalence of blindness in India was 0.36 per cent.
"Among the people aged less than 50 years of age, the corneal disease was the leading cause of blindness accounting for 37.5 per cent of the cases. The prevalence of blindness among the population with age more than 50 years age was 1.99 per cent with corneal blindness being the second most common cause in this group, accounting for 8.2 per cent of the cases," said a doctor.
Dr Shakti Gupta, Medical Superintendent of RP eye centre said the occasion is observed to promote awareness about eye donation in order to fight corneal blindness.
He said 100 per cent online death notification system has been in place at AIIMS, which is helping our eye bank counsellors and technicians to approach a greater number of families. (ANI)
By Priyanka Sharma