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A Journal on Ophthalmology
Minerva Oftalmologica 2004 March;46(1):41-54
Review of corneal transplant: role of eye banks and introduction of the artificial cornea Alpha Cor™ in Italy
Caporossi A., Traversi C., Simi C., Mazzotta C.
The situation with regard to corneal transplant in Italy is monitored by the Italian Corneal Transplant Society (Società Italiana Trapianti di Cornea, SITRAC), formed with the aim of keeping members up to date on advances and guidelines in the field of corneal surgery and of providing statistical data on corneal transplant in Italy. SITRAC data shows an annual increase in the number of transplants. In the period 1999-2001, more than 12 000 corneal transplants were done with material from Italian eye banks, an increase of about 50% with respect to the previous triennium. This increase is related to intensification of the activity of the national eye banking service and the informative role of SITRAC regarding corneal surgery. The increasing trend in the number of corneas explanted and analysed and the percentage of corneas judged suitable for transplant are confirmed by the 2001-2003 figures, underlining an increase in donors in Italy. The results show good autonomy of the eye banking service in Italy with a diminishing percentage of ophthalmic surgery Centers seeking corneas from foreign banks. However, a significant percentage of corneas continue to be judged unsuitable. Here we report the general situation of corneal transplant in Italy as determined by the Department of Ophthalmology and Neurosurgery of Siena University, under commission to SITRAC. Corneal transplant is not always the solution for corneal opacity. There are more than 10 million patients in the world with bilateral corneal blindness who cannot undergo standard donor corneal transplant due to repeated or predicted failure, contraindications for antirejection therapy or lack of a national eye banking service. In 2002, the Australian artificial cornea AlphaCor™ was introduced into Italy by the Ophthalmology Unit of Siena University. The cornea is made entirely of poly-hema hydrogel. In our experience, AlphaCor™ opens new horizons and exciting new prospects in corneal surgery, further reducing costs. With appropriate selection of cases, it could restore sight in millions of individuals.