Variety

An eye bank that reached the top in 3 decades

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on July 02, 2019 Published on July 02, 2019

A technician of Ramayamma International Eye Bank at LV Prasad Eye Institute displays a harvested cornea   -  Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Recognised by SightLife as a Global Center of Excellence, this eye bank has distributed over 41,680 corneas

From harvesting 20 corneas in 1989 to reach a cumulative total of 78,642 this year, the Ramayamma International Eye Bank (RIEB) at LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Hyderabad, has come a long way indeed.

In this journey, it has emerged the largest eye bank outside the US. In 2015, the LVPEI created history in the field of corneal transplantation by becoming the first Institute in the world to have performed 20,000 corneal transplants, said Gullapalli N Rao, Founder and Chair of the Institute.

Right from its inception, RIEB has pursued innovation, setting high standards even while increasing its supply of transplantable corneas.

It has promoted and supported the development of eye banks throughout the country, as also other parts of Asia and the developing world, and networking them.

Recognised by SightLife as a ‘Global Centre of Excellence’, it has distributed over 41,680 corneas to patients across India. Hyderabad is the only city in Asia with no waiting list for corneal transplants, according to the Institute. The growth is significant because organ transplantation is still challenged on two counts in the country — social and religious beliefs that discourage donation, and the pessimism and suspicion surrounding the act.

While eye donations have become more common and corneal transplantation is done at many centres, RIEB’s role has been in the evolution of modern eye banking and specialised corneal care in India. The establishment of the eye bank at LVPEI was helped with financial support from the family of Gunnam Ramayamma (promoters of Nava Bharat Ventures) and technical support from the International Federation of Eye Banks of Baltimore, US.

It was primarily to bridge the gap between the need and availability of quality donor corneas, and to create a Centre of Excellence in eye banking.

Corneal disease

Corneal disease is a major cause of blindness in India. Corneal transplantation, using healthy corneas donated by individuals upon their death, is the only way to rehabilitate the majority of those with corneal blindness. India has the largest burden of corneal blindness in the world.

Besides the donors, RIEB’s efforts have been aided by organisations such as Sightsavers, International Federation of Eye and Tissue Banks, CBM, Orbis International, Eyesight International and SightLife, and Rotary Club of Hyderabad. the Institute said.

The cost-effective medium used to store corneas — the MK Medium — is manufactured at RIEB and sent to other eye banks in India and to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mongolia and Kenya.

 

Published on July 02, 2019
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