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Lifetime savings from corneal transplants: $291,000 per person

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Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 5:33 p.m.

Patients, health insurers and taxpayers will save about $6 billion in direct medical costs and maintained productivity from corneal transplants performed this year, according to a study by the Eye Bank Association of America.

The study compared the expense of transplant procedures with the costs to patients — and subsequently, health insurers and taxpayers — of living with blindness or severe vision loss over the patient's lifetime. The direct lifetime costs of blindness are $77,000 per person, while indirect costs, such as lost productivity, health care costs and taxpayer-funded disability benefits, are $214,000, the study found.

And you can't put a price on the benefits to people who have had their eyesight restored through transplants, said Kevin Corcoran, Eye Bank president and CEO.

“People talk about how their life was disrupted when they learned they were losing their sight and about all the things they lost, not being able to see their children or grandchildren or not being able to go to work and do the things they love,” Corcoran said.

Doctors performed more than 46,000 corneal transplants in the United States in 2011, the study found. More than 1 million corneal transplants have been done since 1991.

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education, a nonprofit organ procurement organization based in O'Hara, expects to recover about 900 corneas for transplantation this year, providing an estimated lifetime value of more than $43 million, the organization said.

CORE is about average among the 85 eye banks across the country based on the number of corneas recovered, Corcoran said.

Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or

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