6 undergo cornea transplant at KBTH

Six persons yesterday underwent a successful cornea transplant at the Eye Unit of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) to correct blurriness and restore their vision.

The surgery, which replaced either part or whole cornea of patients with free donated cornea tissues from the United States, was led by DrGeoffrey Tabin, a Professor of Ophthalmology and Global Medicine at the Stanford University, together with a three-member eye specialists team of the hospital.

The about two-hour procedure, each performed in two different batches, involved four males and two females.

It is the third under a partnership between KBTH and the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP)-Cure Blindness which has the goal of establishing a sustainable eye care infrastructure and reducing blindness in developing countries.

The programme invests in specialised training opportunities for ophthalmic personnel through hospital based programmes, sponsored medical equipment procurement and surgical outreaches across sub-Saharan Africa.

Briefing journalists after the procedure yesterday, Dr Tabin said cornea transplant was common in many advanced countries to reduce prevalence of blindness among the population.

A key element for performing such surgeries, he said, was the availability of “eye banks” where cornea tissues of dead persons were harvested and stored for the process.

“This procedure restores sight to blind people, with eyes donated by people who recently passed away. In the US, we conduct about 45,000 cornea transplants annually, but that is not available across sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya tried establishing one but was not successful.

As a result, patients needing this procedure have to travel all the way to India, America and other countries to undergo such surgery and the cost of one tissue is about 2,000 dollars,” he noted.

According to Dr Tabin, a lot of eye blindness among the Ghanaian population could be averted should the country have such infrastructure in place as there were highly skilled and qualified ophthalmologists to perform the procedure.

“There are many great specialists who can perform this surgery and many others under training, but the problem is the absence of the tissue because people do not want to donate the cornea of their loved ones to disturb their bodies in death.

However, lots of people have had their eye through this gift which is the front window to the eye. If people can donate corneas, that can be of great service to many young men and women suffering blindness in the country.

A Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Gladys Fordjour, who was part of the team disclosed that the Unit had “a long list of people awaiting cornea surgeries with 30 people booked for the procedure at present.”

She said about nine per cent of blindness recorded in Ghana were due to cornea scars, urging the public to take good care of their eyes as stakeholders take steps at considering the establishment of eye banks.

“Every red eye is an emergency and you should have it checked. If there is a family history of blindness you need to have the eyes checked periodically, at least every two years at age 30 to 40 onwards, and do not put anything into the eye if it has not been prescribed,” she advised.

For his part, the Chief Executive of KBTH, Dr Opoku Ware Ampomah, said a

“Tissue Transplantation Act” in Ghana was needed as soon as possible to allow for the safe harvesting and storage of human organs for transplant activities to save lives.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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