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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Eye transplants 'hit by Alder Hey'
Some doctors say eye donation rates are down
Some doctors say eye donation rates are down
Leading experts say the Alder Hey organ scandal has affected the number of eye corneas available for transplantation.

Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says there says been a 13% drop in the donation of corneas over the past year.

And it says the same kind of fall has been seen at four other eyebanks in the UK, who have seen drops of between 11% and 21 %.

If the trend continues, doctors warn patients may have to wait longer for treatment.

Sybil Ritten, director of the Eye Bank at Moorfields, said: "Probably people are confusing the tissue transplantation surgery with issues of pathology tissue retention."


Probably people are confusing the tissue transplantation surgery with issues of pathology tissue retention

Sybill Ritten,
Moorfields Eye Hospital
The report into the organ retention scandal at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital was published in January this year.

At the time, there were some concerns the scandal could affect organ donation rates.

Ms Ritten added: "It looks like we are facing an increasing need against a downward turn in donation.

"We are having to eliminate some generous offers because of issues of safety for recipients."

Decline

The 13% drop seen by Moorfields occurred between the first and second half of the year between April 2000 to March 2001.

Donation rates were very poor in 1999, but there was a slight improvement in 2000, before this recent fall.

In 1999, Moorfields carried out 354 corneal transplants, provided 49 for operations at other London hospitals, and 87 sent to other UK hospitals.

Last year, 426 corneal transplants were done at Moorfields.

Figures from UK Transplant, which co-ordinates donors and recipients of organ transplants confirm a drop.

They show that in the first half of 2000 there were 1,096 donors, who each gave both eyes.

In the second half of the year, that fell to 938, and in the first half of 2001, there were just 848.

Waits 'more likely'

Frank Larkin, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields said there had been a steady decline in the numbers of eyes donated over the last four to five years.

He told BBC News Online Alder Hey was the most likely explanation for the drop in donations: "We can never be sure. But it's the most likely reason.

"What's important to bear in mind is that over the last three to five years there's been a very slow decay in the numbers of donations coming along.

"In the past few months its dropped a bit more sharply."

He warned that if the numbers of corneas available dropped much more, patients who can now be treated on a first come, first served basis - may have to be prioritised and endure longer waits.

Around 3,000 corneal grafts are carried out every year.

Many are needed because of keratoconus, a disorder of the shape of the cornea, or corneal disease, often caused by cataract surgery.

Corneas, unlike kidneys and livers, can be removed up to 24 hours after death.

Some potential donors can feel squeamish about donating their eyes.

See also:

10 Jul 00 | Health
Lab-grown corneas 'restore sight'
04 Feb 01 | Health
Organ transplant summit called
27 Mar 01 | Health
Eye clinics 'offer poor support'
08 Jul 01 | Wales
Researchers eye up 1m bonus
19 Jul 01 | Health
CJD risk from eye operations
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