Donor age does not affect the success rate of most corneal transplants — validating expansion of the donor pool beyond age 65, UC Davis and University of Cincinnati researchers say.
Recently published online in Ophthalmology, their study found 10-year success rates of 75 percent in transplants in which donors were ages 34 to 71. It found slightly better rates when donors were younger than that, slightly lower when they were older. The study followed 663 recipients for a decade.
“The findings clearly demonstrate that most corneal transplants have remarkable longevity regardless of donor age,” said Mark Mannis, chair of ophthalmology and vision sciences, director of UC Davis Health System’s Eye Center and co-chair of the study, in a news release.
“The majority of patients continued to do well after 10 years, even those who received corneas from the oldest donors.”
Corneal transplants are performed when lenses or medication cannot correct decreased vision or reduce discomfort from corneal damage. Surgeons remove part of the damaged cornea, then graft donor tissue in its place.
In 2000, when the study began, any surgeons would not use corneas from donors 61 or older, but that’s changing.
Now in the United States, about three-fourths of cornea donors fall into that 34- to 71-year-old age range — with one-third from the upper end of that range: from 61 to 71 to years old.
The supply of donated corneas has not kept pace with growing demand. In 2012, more than 46,000 transplants were performed in the United States, according to UCD. Eye banks also exported about 20,000 corneas to other countries — an increase of 7 percent over 2011.