April 1, 2008 -- Cornea transplants from older donors work just as well as corneas transplanted from younger donors.
The finding, from a clinical trial involving 43 eye banks, means that corneas from donors up to age 75 can now be transplanted. This will expand the donor pool by as much as 20% to 35%, suggests the Cornea Donor Study Investigator Group, which conducted the study.
More than half of the 33,000 corneas transplanted each year in the U.S. come from donors over age 60. But doctors have been wary of using corneas from donors older than age 65.
The study group included 105 eye surgeons from 80 participating sites. In more than 1,000 cornea transplant patients followed for five years, the surgeons saw no difference in outcomes between recipients of corneas from donors younger than 66 and recipients of corneas from donors aged 66 to 75.
In both groups, 86% of patients had successful cornea transplants. There was no evidence linking donor age to patient outcome, even among patients whose transplants failed.
"Our results indicate that the donor age pool should be expanded to 75 years," the investigators conclude.
The findings appear in the April issue of the journal Ophthalmology.