When does a patient require a corneal transplant?
When the cornea becomes cloudy, light rays are unable to pass through to reach the light-sensitive portion of the eye called the retina. A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure that involves replacing the cloudy/scarred cornea with a donor cornea to restore vision.
Most individuals with poor vision due to a diseased or cloudy cornea, whose nerve and retina at the back of the eye is still healthy, may benefit from a corneal transplant to see well.
A cloudy or opaque cornea can occur from scarring of any cause (e.g., injuries or infections) or cloudy swelling of the cornea due to damage or ageing of the innermost layer of cells of the cornea (known as the corneal endothelial layer). This layer is not able to "grow back" or regenerate and can only be replaced by a donor cornea through transplantation.
Less commonly, corneal transplants can be done on an urgent basis to treat severe Corneal Infections, or to repair or "patch up" severe thinning, defects or perforations in the cornea or sclera (the sclera is the white coating of the eye). The latter may occur due to previous injury, inflammation or infections.
Singapore Eye Bank
Established in 1991, the Singapore Eye Bank (SEB) stays true to its national remit and mission of ‘Assisting in the Restoration of Sight to Those Blind from Corneal Diseases, through the Procurement of High Quality Corneas for Corneal Transplantation in Singapore’.
The primary objective of the Singapore Eye Bank is to provide safe human corneal tissue of excellent quality to patients requiring corneal transplantation. This is achieved through local corneal donation programmes, and through acquisition of overseas corneal tissue from certified international eye banks. SEB provides families of potential donors with a mechanism to donate their loved one’s eyes and is committed to promote public awareness of corneal donations among all Singaporeans. Sited within SNEC, SEB is staffed and fully equipped for corneal procurement, evaluation, processing, storage and distribution for transplantation. The eye bank adheres to the highest international standards set by the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) and undergoes regular quality assurance reviews.
The SEB is also the epicenter of the Association of Eye Banks of Asia (AEBA), which is headquartered in SNEC. AEBA is a professional organization of eye banks in Asia dedicated to promoting eye donation and improving standards of eye banking in Asia. The Hospital Eye Donation Program (HEDP), which is governed by the Medical Therapy, Education & Research Act, was launched in 1996 in order to increase the rate of local cornea donation. This involves active counseling of the next-of-kin of the deceased and obtaining consent for cornea donation. The first program was implemented in SGH and subsequent programmes were also adopted in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (2002), Changi General Hospital (2010) and National University Hospital (2013).
Hospital Eye Donation Program
The Hospital Eye Donation Program (HEDP) is a joint program with four (4) main affiliated public institutions in Singapore from where consent to cornea donation is obtained from bereaved families.
SEB remains steadfast in increasing local cornea donation with the ultimate objective of making corneas accessible and affordable to all Singaporeans without the uncertainty of cornea supply and prohibitive costs of foreign corneas.
SEB sees progressive Increase in Local Consent to Eye Donation through its innovative and impactful eye donation campaigns such as the nationwide photo competition and exhibition in 2017 and production of a You-Tube ‘Blind-Fold’ video in 2015.
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