Cornea donations are much less common — perhaps less understood — than gifts of solid organs ­like the heart, kidneys and lungs.

In fact, eye banks around the world struggle to meet the growing demand for transplantable corneal tissue. Only one cornea is available for every 70 needed, according to a multinational survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016.

As an example of how this impacts global health care, surgeons in Saudi Arabia typically have to use imported tissue to perform corneal transplants. Fortunately, with our support, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) recently received approval from the Saudi Center for Organ Transplant to import corneal tissue directly from out-of-Kingdom eye banks, rather than going through the center’s process for procurement and coordination.

This is a critical step in our joint efforts to improve procedures for JHAH patients who require cornea transplant surgery.

JHAH began to work with Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute — the largest research and clinical ophthalmic center in the United States — in 2018 to enhance corneal and refractive surgical services, including establishing an eye bank to support JHAH’s cornea transplant program.

Now that it can import corneal tissues directly from international eye banks ― including the same ones our hospitals use ― JHAH will be able to perform more corneal surgeries and ultimately provide corneal tissues to other hospitals in Saudi Arabia. All of which translates into many more people receiving needed treatment, regaining normal vision and leading healthy, fulfilling lives.

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