Introduction Since 21 February 2020, the day that the first Italian COVID-19 case was identified, the organizational and regulatory conditions for ocular tissue donation have undergone numerous changes in order to guarantee safety and quality. Herewith we report the key responses of the procurement programme to these challenges.
Materials and Methods A retrospective analysis of the ocular tissue procured between 1 January 2020 and 30 September 2021 is reported.
Results 9224 ocular tissues were procured during the study period (weekly average: 100 ± 21 tissues, mean ± SD; down to 97 ± 24, if only 2020 is considered). During the first wave, the weekly average reached 80 ± 24 tissues, a significant reduction if compared to the first 8 weeks of the year (124 ± 22 tissues/week, p<0.001), falling to 67 ± 15 tissues/week during the lock-down period. Considering the ocular tissues collected in the Veneto Region alone, the weekly mean was 68 ± 20, a reduction when compared to the first 8 weeks of the year (102 ± 23, p<0.001), arriving at 58 ± 15 tissues/week during the lock-down period. The percentage of healthcare professionals who tested positive during the first wave was on average 12% of the positive cases in the whole country, and equal to 18% in the Veneto Region alone. During the second wave, the mean weekly recovery of ocular tissue was 91 ± 15 and 77 ± 15 in the Veneto Region, compared to positive cases of healthcare professionals of 4% across Italy and in the Veneto Region. During the third wave, the overall weekly mean recovery rate was 107 ± 14, and 87 ± 13 in the Veneto Region, with only 1% of positive cases among healthcare professionals in Italy and in the Veneto Region.
Conclusions The most dramatic decrease of ocular tissue recovery occurred during the first wave of COVID-19, notwithstanding the lower number of infected people. This phenomenon can be attributed to different factors: a high percentage of positive cases and/or contacts among potential donors; the number of infections among healthcare professionals, favoured by the lack of personal protection equipement and the still partial knowledge of the disease; the exclusion of donors with bilateral pneumonia. Subsequently, the system was better organized with the assimilation of new knowledge about the virus, overcoming the initial fears about transmission and thus guaranteeing the resumption and maintenance of donations.
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