Importance: Corneal transplantation restores visual function when visual impairment caused by a corneal disease becomes too severe. It is considered the world's most frequent type of transplantation, but, to our knowledge, there are no exhaustive data allowing measurement of supply and demand, although such data are essential in defining local, national, and global strategies to fight corneal blindness.
Objective: To describe the worldwide situation of corneal transplantation supply and demand.
Design, setting, and participants: Data were collected between August 2012 and August 2013 from a systematic review of published literature in parallel with national and international reports on corneal transplantation and eye banking. In a second step, eye bank staff and/or corneal surgeons were interviewed on their local activities. Interviews were performed during international ophthalmology or eye-banking congresses or by telephone or email. Countries' national supply/demand status was classified using a 7-grade system. Data were collected from 148 countries.
Main outcomes and measures: Corneal transplantation and corneal procurements per capita in each country.
Results: In 2012, we identified 184,576 corneal transplants performed in 116 countries. These were procured from 283,530 corneas and stored in 742 eye banks. The top indications were Fuchs dystrophy (39% of all corneal transplants performed), a primary corneal edema mostly affecting elderly individuals; keratoconus (27%), a corneal disease that slowly deforms the cornea in young people; and sequellae of infectious keratitis (20%). The United States, with 199.10-6 corneal transplants per capita, had the highest transplantation rate, followed by Lebanon (122.10-6) and Canada (117.10-6), while the median of the 116 transplanting countries was 19.10-6. Corneas were procured in only 82 countries. Only the United States and Sri Lanka exported large numbers of donor corneas. About 53% of the world's population had no access to corneal transplantation.
Conclusions and relevance: Our survey globally quantified the considerable shortage of corneal graft tissue, with only 1 cornea available for 70 needed. Efforts to encourage cornea donation must continue in all countries, but it is also essential to develop alternative and/or complementary solutions, such as corneal bioengineering.