Purpose: Moorfields Eye Hospital sits as a major tertiary centre for ophthalmic care in the United Kingdom and became a central hub to provide safe and effective ophthalmic care across London and surrounding regions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We explore the impact on both the acute and elective corneal services during the first wave of this pandemic.
Methods: A retrospective review of the proportion of corneal transplants and anterior segment trauma repairs was performed during the period of March 23rd to July 1st 2020 compared with an identical period in 2019. Data were acquired from our in-house electronic patient records.
Results: A 92% reduction in corneal elective work was observed during the lockdown period compared with an identical period in 2019, with only 10 elective cases in total being performed. In addition, 91 corneal cross-linking and 76 therapeutic lasers were cancelled. There were 15 cases of primary repair for anterior segment trauma compared with 6 cases pre-COVID-19. A similar scenario occurs with removal of foreign body (4 cases during COVID-19 period versus no cases during pre-COVID-19 era) and with traumatic lens aspirations (6 cases during COVID-19 compared with 2 pre-COVID-19). Interestingly, a statistical difference (p=0.03) was found in the time interval from presentation of symptoms to emergency corneal surgery. During the COVID-19 period, a delay of 1.5 days ± 2.29 (range 0– 10 days) occurred compared with 0.8 days ± 1.54 (range 0– 6 days) pre-COVID-19.
Conclusion: Stringent risk stratification reduced elective corneal surgery capacity during the lockdown thereby preserving social distancing requirements. However, an apparent increase in emergency corneal surgery seen is likely attributed to centralisation of ophthalmic services during the pandemic crisis, alongside increased domestic injuries. Despite the challenges posed, successful delivery of corneal surgery occurred whilst helping to identify lessons in preparations for future pandemics and current inefficiencies in healthcare delivery.