Corneal transplant program in India reaches 100-patient treatment mark
Charity effort aims for 1,000 procedures this year and plans to increase public awareness of corneal blindness treatment and prevention.
The Tej Kohli Foundations Corneal Transplant Program in Gurgaon, India, has reached a significant milestone in its outreach: 100 patients treated.
The program was created to reduce the incidence of corneal blindness, one of the most pervasive and preventable causes of vision loss in India.
The corneal transplant and eye donation mission, launched in June 2010, has exceeded early expectations, Rajiv Pradhan, head of the Tej Kohli Foundation, said in an email interview with Ocular Surgery News.
When the man behind the vision, Mr. Tej Kohli, spearheaded a corneal transplant and eye donation mission in India last year, little did he know that it was going to become one of the most successful philanthropic ventures in North India, Mr. Pradhan said.
The programs 100th corneal transplantation recipient was treated on Feb. 9. Mr. Pradhan and colleagues plan to help a significantly higher number of patients in 2011.
Our aim is to do 1,000 corneal transplants in the year ahead, Mr. Pradhan said.
The Tej Kohli Foundation is also devoted to feeding and educating underprivileged children, supporting vocational training for people with disabilities, improving health care in rural areas and helping women improve their economic status.
India has about 15 million people with blindness, or about one-third of the estimated 45 million people worldwide. There are approximately 4.6 million people in India with corneal blindness stemming from disease or trauma; 90% are younger than 45 years and 60% are children younger than 12 years, according to the Tej Kohli Foundation website.
Much of the blindness in India is avoidable, and a good portion of it is treatable, according to the website.
Corneal disease and blindness are closely associated with poverty, Mr. Pradhan said.
Images: Tej Kohli Foundation
In India, where poverty is still widespread, corneal blindness is most often found in those who are underprivileged, he said. Some of the most prevalent indications of corneal transplant include severe corneal infection, corneal degeneration, trauma, workplace injury, corneal scarring, corneal opacity that is often secondary to cataract surgery and inherited diseases of the cornea.
Corneal transplant recipients vary in age, gender and geographic location, but the typical patient is a middle-aged man from a rural area, according to Mr. Pradhan.
Of all the patients, approximately 70% are male and 30% are female, he said. About 10% of these patients are children below the age of 12. Most patients are between the ages of 40 and 70 years. A majority of them hail from the rural areas of Haryana and Rajasthan, India.
Increasing awareness, access
In April 2010, the Tej Kohli Foundation joined forces with the Niramaya Eye Bank and Hitendra Ahooja, MD, from Ahooja Eye Hospital. The foundation covers the cost of all corneal transplants performed at the Niramaya Eye Bank, Mr. Pradhan said.
Currently, the program has two surgeons, three laboratory technicians and four nurses working at one center in Northern India. Organization officials hope to establish 40 rural vision centers in the next 5 years. Currently, there are eight centers located in a 100 km2 radius of the national capital region, Mr. Pradhan said.
The program is stepping up efforts to increase the donation of corneas for use in transplantation procedures, and to raise public awareness of cornea donation and transplantation, Mr. Pradhan said.
Our immediate goal is to generate more awareness of eye donation and corneal transplant, he said. For this, we are in talks with various local [non-governmental organizations], media groups and event companies.
The foundation recently held a blindfold walk that generated an overwhelming response from the public, Mr. Pradhan said.
The foundation has also launched a website, www.netradaan.com, to bolster public awareness and reduce corneal blindness.
Apart from corneal transplants, we also organize free eye check-up camps every month in the rural areas of North India, Mr. Pradhan said. by Matt Hasson