India's prestigious L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) is celebrating a historic year. Records from April 2016 to March 2017 show that the LVPEI staff completed an astonishing 2,043 corneal transplants on its Hyderabad campus. That's the most corneal transplant surgeries performed at one medical facility in the entire world.
Ever since this institute was founded in 1987, it has performed 23,901 successful corneal transplant surgeries. Dr. Gullapalli N Rao, the current chair of LVPEI, told the press, "This achievement should help raise the confidence that organ donation and transplantation in India can potentially touch record volumes."
The Ramayamma International Eye Bank (RIEB), which is a part of the LVPEI, also showed improvement in the past year. In one year's time, the RIEB harvested 7,166 corneas and sent out 3,810 corneas to eye surgeons all over India.
This is all great news for Indians, since corneal disease is the leading cause of blindness in the populous nation. There are roughly 10 million blind people in India right now, 1.1 million of whom have some kind of corneal disease or injury. Doctors estimate that about 80 percent of blind cases around the world could've been prevented or could be treated with common operations like corneal replacement surgeries.
Scientists at the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, a part of the Ophthalmic Cornea Institute at LVPEI, are working on new technologies and techniques to help better treat cases of corneal blindness. As of today, corneal transplantation is the only cure for corneal blindness and can only be performed with donated corneas from the deceased.
LVPEI is passionate about raising awareness around Asia for cornea transplantation and donation. More and more people in India and surrounding Asian nations are recognizing the importance of donating their corneas to eye banks after death. LVPEI has been able to vastly increase its supply of healthy corneas in recent years.
Surgeons at LVPEI are also working on brand new transplantation surgeries set to revolutionize the industry. One exciting project LVPEI is engaged in is testing the efficacy of synthetic corneas. If these synthetic corneas work just as well as donated corneas, this could help reduce the medical world's dependence on healthy corneas from donors for corneal procedures.
Some researchers at LVPEI are interested in using stem cell therapy to create new corneas for patients. Many doctors are also involved in studying the potential for liquid corneas and biosynthetic corneas.
Besides cornea transplant, doctors at LVPEI help people treat various corneal diseases and infections. The doctors at LVPEI often use medicines to halt the progression of the diseases and heal any corneal scarring that might have occurred. Despite these measures, patients with corneal infections often require a corneal transplant sometime in the future.
Rao said he hopes this record is only the first of many for the LVPEI faculty. LVPEI has already helped eye doctors around the world with their innovations in eye banking and corneal transplants, but Dr. Rao believes LVPEI's greatest days are still to come.