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Monday, September 26, 2016, 20:22

Cornea transplant wait time to decrease

By Dara Wang

Cornea transplant wait time to decrease
A recipient is examined after a transplant surgery of corneas at a hospital in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Jan 28, 2015. (Ding Haitao / Xinhua)
HONG KONG – The waiting time for cornea transplant surgeries will be shortened to one year, as the Hospital Authority (HA) Eye Bank has four new specialists to help speed up the process, the deputy chief of the authority said on Monday.

The eye bank, responsible for cornea collection and distribution, has hired two new coordinators to look for suitable donors and two new technicians in charge of harvesting and accessing corneas for transplant surgery.

Both technicians have already started working while the two coordinators will join the team before the end of this year, according to the HA.

The previous transplant waiting time was two years, according to the HA.

There are now some 400 patients on the waiting list for a cornea transplant, while the number of donation cases declined from 248 to 233 over the past two years, according to Deputy Chief Executive of Hong Kong Eye Hospital Lam Nai-man.

So far, only three hospitals – Tuen Mun Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital – have coordination centers for eye donation. The HA aims to set up two more centers in Eastern and Wan Chai districts in 2017 to look for more suitable donors, Lam said.

In Hong Kong, there are 25,000 to 27,000 deceased suitable for eye donation every year, while the number of eye donors is only 312 so far this year, Lam said. By enlarging the network of coordination centers in hospitals, the HA expects to increase the eye donor number to 500 in 2017, Lam said.

The cornea of a deceased person can be donated within 12 hours after cardiac death and those that are short-sighted or long-sighted can also be qualified donors, said Wong Wing-yee, consultant ophthalmologist of the hospital.

Wong said not all donors can have their cornea transplanted. The technicians in the eye bank check if there is an excess of watery fluid or scarring in corneas and then select those with the number of endothelial cells at no less than 2,500.

This screening process normally excludes a quarter of donors, Wong said.

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