A LEADING eye expert has warned some patients in the UK may be losing their sight unnecessarily.

Parwez Hossain, a consultant ophthalmologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS), said some patients across the country may been losing their sight due to a “poor understanding” among surgeons of the effectiveness of emergency corneal transplantation.

The cornea transplant is an operation to remove all or part of a damaged cornea - the eye’s outermost layer - and replace it with healthy donor tissue.

Dr Hossain said there was a “common misconception” among surgeons that the procedure carried unacceptable risks of rejection and failure and as a result, patients with severe infection or perforation of the cornea were often offered removal of the affected eye instead of transplant, or graft.

And added: “ We found that although there are risks that corneas may fail or reject, over a six-year period even in the worst high-risk case scenarios, the chance of graft survival is at least 40 per cent.

“If we look at the outcome over a shorter time period of just one year, the chance of graft survival rate is much higher and, even if graft failure occurs, vision in many cases still improves.

“From a patient’s perspective, these odds make grafting a much better option than having the eye removed and we need to ensure much better awareness of the positive outcomes achieved through emergency transplantation.”

He spoke out following his team’s study which reviewed outcomes from 1,330 emergency corneal graft procedures performed over a six-year period.

They found emergency corneal transplantation was successful in 78 per cent of cases at one year, 66 per cent at two years and 47 per cent at three years. One-year survival for elective – planned – corneal grafts is 90 per cent.