At the end of November, Dr Sanjay Mantry completed the first corneal graft surgery at Shawfair Park Hospital in Edinburgh. The procedure was a great success, and Dr Mantry hopes news of the surgery can spread awareness of the importance of signing up to cornea donation.
“Corneal graft surgery is life-changing, “ said Dr Mantry, who carries out more than 2,000 eye surgeries each year. “It’s an essential treatment for damaged or diseased corneas, and for some patients, it’s the only way they will ever truly regain their vision after illness or injury.
“However, the fact is there is not enough healthy corneal tissue being donated. Without people donating their corneas, corneal grafts are not an option.
“If you’re going to change one thing in the New Year, then revisit your organ donation form and tick the box to donate your corneas. It takes a few minutes, but to someone else it can be the difference between seeing their kids grow up, learning to drive or watching their team win.”
What is a cornea graft?
The cornea is clear and jelly-like, and sits at the front of the eye like a window, helping the eye to focus. However, damage or disease can lead to the cornea becoming misshapen or less transparent and this can result in vision problems. Serious eye conditions, such as keratoconus, are one of the most common reasons for someone needing a corneal graft.
Corneal grafting, also known as corneal transplantation or keratoplasty, is a type of eye surgery required when the cornea is damaged or diseased. The surgery can bring a number of benefits to the patient, including pain relief, improved vision and significant eye damage limitation.
The procedure involves removing all or part of the cornea and replacing the damaged tissue with healthy tissue from a donor. There are different types of cornea graft, depending on what’s required. A penetrating keratoplasty is a full-thickness transplant, whereas a deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty simply replaces or reshapes the front layers of the corneal. An endothelial keratoplasty replaces the deeper layers of the cornea.
Cornea graft surgery is done under either local or general anaesthetic, and is a relatively quick procedure with most cases taking under one hour.
How can I donate my corneas?
In the UK, there is a severe shortage of cornea tissue donors. Registering to donate your corneas is exactly the same as registering to donate any organ after you die. By choosing to donate your corneas after your death, you could give the life-changing gift of eyesight to someone who needs cornea graft surgery. Sign up via the NHS organ donation website.