Donor Age Does Not Affect Corneal Transplant Success Rate

According to the Cornea Donor Study, 10-year success rates were steady at 75% for corneal transplants from donors 34–71 years old.

In general, the study found that success rates were slightly higher for donors under 34, and somewhat lower for donors over 71. In the U.S., 3/4 of cornea donors are within this age range, and 1/3 of donors are within the 61–70 years old range.

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The study assessed whether utilizing donor corneas across the full range of ages might help meet the growing demand of transplants in the aging population. 

Across 80 clinical sites, researchers compared graft survival rates for corneas from two donor age groups, aged 12–65 and aged 66–75. A total of 1,090 patients (ages 40–80) eligible for transplants were enrolled. The corneas were given to patients, without respect to patient age, through a procedure called penetrating keratoplasty.

Graft failure was defined as the need for a new transplant, or a cloudy cornea that caused blurred vision for at least three months. After a 5-year post-transplant follow-up, researchers reported that the success rate was identical for transplants from both age groups (86%). However, they noted that older corneas had a slightly higher rate of endothelial cell loss.

At 10 years post-transplant, the success rates for corneas remained similar for both age groups: 77% for ages 12–65 vs. 71% for ages 66–75. A specific analysis showed that the success rate remained steady at 75% for the vast majority of donors ages 34–71, the rate increased to 96% for donors age 12–33, and decreased to 62% for donors ages 72–75.

Consistent with the 5-year findings, corneas from donors age >65 had a slightly higher rate of endothelial cell loss (79%) compared to those from donors age <65 (76%).

The Corneal Donor Study was funded by NIH's National Eye Institute. Study results are published online in Ophthalmology.  

For more information call (301) 496-5248 or visit the National Eye Institute page

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