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Better vision faster with new eye surgery

Medical care continues to evolve as we learn more about the human body and new techniques and technologies are developed; this includes treatment of the cornea.

The cornea is the outermost protective layer of the eye and comprises five layers of tissue, which can become irritated or damaged and need treatment, which in more severe cases require surgery. Traditionally, corneal surgery required transplanting the entire cornea. That is no longer always the case. 

In April of this year a new corneal procedure was introduced at JHAH. Dr. Ashbala Khattak, JHAH corneal specialist, performed a Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) procedure to correct only the innermost layer of the cornea—the endothelium.

DMEK is a minimally invasive procedure that provides a number of key benefits. In full corneal transplants up to 16 sutures are required. In DMEK, no sutures are required so patients feel less discomfort and the surface of the cornea is left intact “DMEK reduces the risk for complications, and since the surface is left uninterrupted, a patient’s vision improves in a matter of weeks compared to months or years with a traditional corneal transplant,” says Dr. Ramiz Al Hindi, Physician Manager, and head of the JHAH Ophthalmology Unit. “Another key benefit is that in the long-term, DMEK patients are much less likely to need glasses or contact lenses.” 

Regardless of the benefits of DMEK over traditional techniques, all corneal surgeries require tissue transplant. “Obtaining corneal tissue can be difficult,” says Dr. Al Hindi. “We are working with the Saudi Center for Organ Transplant (SCOT)  to establish an Eye Bank at JHAH. Ours will be the first in the Eastern Province and will allow us to perform more corneal surgeries here at JHAH and ultimately provide corneal tissues to other hospitals in the area, so more people with advanced corneal problems can regain normal vision and resume more productive and healthy life.”