The procurement of corneal tissues for keratoplasty is continuing in The Netherlands on a limited basis, but uncertainties remain as to whether enough corneas and hospital space will be available for even the most urgent cases in the coming weeks and months, said Robin van Eechoud, a staff member of The Dutch National Transplant service, a government organisation responsible for organ and tissue post-mortem donor screening and allocation to patients who are waiting for a transplant.
“The pandemic has changed things in a number of different ways, the most important one is that we now require tissue donors to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and when it became pandemic we temporarily stopped doing tissue donation completely, because we found it unsafe to have procurement teams travelling to hospitals and potentially contributing to the spread of the epidemic. We also cancelled all elective surgeries involving tissues because we wanted to use available tissues as efficiently as possible and only provided them to the patients who needed them most,” Mr van Eechoud told EuroTimes in an interview.
Mr van Eechoud noted, however, that it soon became clear that the tissue supplies were likely to run out within weeks and as of March 20 they have resumed procurement of corneal tissue, although on a very limited basis. They now restrict their procurement activities to combined organ and tissue donors, as they are always tested in advance. The reporting physician and family of the donors also now provide answers regarding their risk for COVID-19 infection such as travel to areas with recent outbreaks and contact with people infected with the virus.
He added that in recent years the Dutch National Transplant Foundation and the two Dutch eye banks, AER in Rotterdam and ETB-BISLIFE in Beverwijk, have actually had a surplus of corneal tissue available for other countries to use. In response to the pandemic, an initiative has been started by members of the European Eye Bank Association to make efficient use of corneal tissue an EU-wide effort.
“It’s really important to communicate effectively with people in the donor hospitals and the tissue banks and the transplant surgeons and that is what is working for us right now,” he said.
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