Corneal Transplants: Donor Age Mostly Not a Factor

11/28/2013
Photo: Eye

The supply of corneas does not meet the demand. As the aging population grows, the need for corneal trans-
plants is expected to grow, too;
© panthermedia.net/lightwise

Ten years after a transplant, a cornea from a 71-year-old donor is likely to remain as healthy as a cornea from a donor half that age. Corneas from donors over 71 perform slightly less well but still remain healthy for most recipients.

The Cornea Donor Study found that 10-year success rates remained steady at 75 percent for corneal transplants from donors 34 to 71 years old. It also found slightly higher success rates for donors under 34, and somewhat lower rates for donors over 71. In the U.S., three-fourths of cornea donors are within the 34 to 71 age range, with one-third of donors at the upper end of the range, from 61 to 70 years old. When the study began in 2000, many surgeons would not accept corneas from donors over 65.

"The findings clearly demonstrate that most corneal transplants have remarkable longevity regardless of donor age," said Mark Mannis, chair of ophthalmology and vision sciences, director of UC Davis Health System's Eye Center and co-chair of the study. "The majority of patients continued to do well after 10 years, even those who received corneas from the oldest donors."

The Corneal Donor Study "supports continued expansion of the corneal donor pool beyond age 65," said Edward J. Holland, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Cincinnati and director of the Cornea Service at the Cincinnati Eye Institute.

A corneal transplant is performed when decreased vision or discomfort from corneal damage cannot be corrected with lenses or medication. It involves removing a portion of the damaged cornea and grafting corneal tissue from a deceased donor in its place. More than 46,000 corneal transplants were performed in the United States last year. In addition, U.S. eye banks exported about 20,000 corneas to other countries in 2012, an increase of 7 percent over 2011.

The supply of corneas does not meet the demand internationally, and as the aging population grows at home and abroad, the need for corneal transplants is expected to grow, too. The Cornea Donor Study was designed to address whether making use of donor corneas across the full range of ages available might help solve this problem," said Maryann Redford, a clinical research program director at NEI.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of California, Davis