PURPOSE: The purpose of this focused review was to explore the etiologies of corneal blindness worldwide and compare them with the indications and type of keratoplasties (eg, full-thickness penetrating keratoplasty, anterior lamellar keratoplasty, or endothelial keratoplasty) performed.
METHODS: A literature search of the articles published in the top 10 journals (based on the Altmetrics score) relevant to corneal transplantation within the past 20 years was performed to determine how the focus within corneal transplantation has changed over time. These data were compared with the prevalence and etiology of corneal blindness in each respective region worldwide.
RESULTS: The leading etiologies of corneal blindness worldwide are primarily due to anterior corneal pathology with a normal endothelium, and the prevalence is highest in developing countries. In addition, the number and type of corneal transplantations performed globally indicate that current practices are disproportionately skewed in favor of endothelial keratoplasty, which is targeted for the pathology prevalent in developed countries. Despite the large number of individuals who would benefit from anterior lamellar keratoplasty, this technique seems to be infrequently performed.
CONCLUSIONS: Most corneal blindness worldwide is secondary to anterior corneal pathology because of infections and trauma. However, this does not align with the current trends and practices in the field of corneal transplantation. We discuss potential solutions to address the current leading causes of global corneal blindness, including increasing the number of anterior lamellar keratoplasties performed, using long-term preserved corneas by trained surgeons, and improving eye bank handling and distribution of procured tissues.
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