COVID-19: Cornea transplantation procedure hit at MKCG Medical College and Hospital

Berhampur: The cornea transplantation procedure at the MKCG Medical College and Hospital here has stopped since March this year following the outbreak of COVID-19, a senior doctor said.

Even though family members have shown interest to donate the eyes of their relatives who died recently, the doctors are not undertaking the procedure due to the pandemic, he said.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the Eye department of MKCG Medical College and Hospital used to conduct an average of seven cornea transplantation every month. However, the transplantation has stopped since March following the outbreak of the Covid-19, said Suchitra Dash, Head of Department of Eye.

While around 150 patients were in queue for the transplantation till the end of March, the number has now gone up to over 250 by now, said an ophthalmologist.

The eye bank in the medical college which harvest on an average of 10 corneas every month has dropped to zero for the last few months, sources said.

“We don’t want to take the risk of collecting cornea of the deceased without knowing his/her COVID status. Moreover, it could not be transplanted to the patient immediately due to the shutdown of the operation theatre,” said Dash.

The eye donation activities in and around the Silk City have also stopped since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Sons of an 85-year old man in Berhampur could not fulfil their father’s eye donation pledge made about five years ago, as the doctors did not show interest, even though he died of heart attack, family members said.

“Family members of at least a dozen deceased persons had also wished to donate the eyes of the dead persons, but it could not be harvested, as the eye surgeons, worried about the Covid-19 status of the deceased persons, discouraged it,” said J Suresh, an eye donation campaign activist.

BNR Subudhi, an ophthalmologist said since people are eager to donate eyes and the waitlist for the transplantation of cornea is going up, the Eye Bank Association of Indian (EBAI) must evolve a mechanism and guidelines to carry out the eye banking activities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Thousands of people suffering from the curable blindness will further suffer, if such activities are stopped for a prolonged period,” he said.

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