Puneeth Rajkumar’s eye donation gives sight to four persons

His father Dr. Rajkumar had pledged the eyes of his entire family in 1994

Even in his death, Kannada actor Puneeth Rajkumar gifted eyesight to four persons. Doctors at Narayana Nethralaya, who collected the late actor’s corneas, said they sliced the corneas and transplanted them in four corneal blind patients.

Addressing mediapersons in Bengaluru on November 1, K. Bhujang Shetty, chairman and managing director of Narayana Nethralaya, said, “We are very fortunate and grateful for ‘Power Star’ Puneeth Rajkumar’s eye donation. What was unique is that we used each eye to treat two patients by separating the superior and deeper layers of the cornea.”

“The superior layer was transplanted to two patients, who had superficial corneal disease, and only the deeper layer was transplanted to patients with endothelial or deep corneal layer disease. Hence, we created four different transplants from two corneas to restore vision for four different patients. This had not been done in Karnataka so far, to the best of our knowledge,” Dr. Shetty said.

Following in the footsteps of his father Dr. Rajkumar, the family of Puneeth Rajkumar donated his eyes on October 29. Soon after he was declared dead, Puneeth Rajkumar’s brother Raghavendra called Dr. Rajkumar Eye Bank, which is run by Narayana Nethralaya, to collect the actor’s eyes.

Dr. Shetty personally monitored the eye retrieval process. He said that Dr. Rajkumar had pledged the eyes of his entire family during the inaugural function of the eye bank in 1994.

The corneal transplant procedures were performed on October 30. “Finding suitable recipients for the procedures was a challenge. We sought help from B.L. Sujatha Rathod, director of the State-run Minto Ophthalmic Hospital,” he said.


Elaborating on the procedures, the doctor said two different techniques of lamellar keratoplasty were used. “Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty (DALK) – wherein the outer or superficial part of cornea was transplanted in two young patients with corneal dystrophy and keratoconus. Both these conditions affect predominantly the superficial layer of the cornea while the deeper part of the eye is normal. Hence, only the superior part was replaced and the endothelium of the patient was retained. This greatly reduces the chance of graft rejection,” Dr. Shetty explained.

“The second technique is – Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK) – wherein the inner or deeper layer of the cornea is transplanted in two patients with corneal endothelial decompensation affecting the innermost layer of the cornea. In this procedure, only the endothelium is replaced, and usually carried out with a small incision and a few sutures. This avoids full thickness cornea transplant, is more comfortable for the patient and allows faster recovery,” the doctor said.

“Besides this, the limbal rim (white part of the eye near the circumference of the cornea), which was not used for the transplants, has been sent to our laboratory to generate ‘Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells’ for potential use in patients with Limbal Stem Cell deficiency, chemical injuries, acid burns and other serious disorders,” he said.

The surgeries were performed by a team of doctors led by Rohit Shetty, head of the department of Cornea and Refractive Surgery. The team included Yathish Shivanna, Medical Director of Dr. Rajkumar Eye Bank, and consultants Sharon D’Souza, Harsha Nagaraj and Prarthana Bhandary.

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Sagar Biswas

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