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Sight-saving surgery

We take a look at how eye surgery at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) has helped save the sight and improve the lives of three local residents.

Sight is something many take for granted. But what if in your early 20s you begin to lose it? That's what happened to two young Saudis.

“They had keratoconus, which is a corneal disease that is common in young Saudis,” explains Dr. Ashbala Khattak, JHAH consulting ophthalmologist.

Dr. Khattak used the ‘big bubble technique’ to perform the delicate surgery needed to correct this disease. Also known as Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty, the technique enabled her to remove the damaged layers of the cornea and leave the innermost endothelial layer.

Prior to Dr. Khattak’s arrival, JHAH referred one patient with keratoconus every month to either the King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital or to an eye hospital in Dubai. For those who meet the criteria, this procedure, which only recently replaced full thickness corneal transplant, is an outpatient procedure providing faster recovery time, minimal risk of graft rejection and better results for the patient.

Sutureless eye surgery 

Saleh Saud Al-Rabou also had life-changing eye surgery at JHAH. He went from only being able to count fingers from a maximum of three feet away in one eye, to 20/40 vision in that same eye within one week of surgery.

Al-Rabou underwent the first sutureless scleral fixated intraocular lens (SFIOL) implant at JHAH, one of only a few sutureless SFIOLs that have been performed in the region. “His vision was very poor due to the lens having been removed during a previous cataract surgery,” said Dr. Khattak. “Dr. Alaa Hatoum and I performed sutureless SFIOL to correct the problem.”

A sutureless SFIOL is a complex surgery that involves attaching the lens to the scleral, the white portion of the eye, using a special glue. Traditional SFIOLs involve making a large incision and then suturing the lens in place. The benefits of the sutureless technique are better vision, long-term stability and reduced recovery time.

“I went back for a follow-up appointment a week after the surgery,” said Al-Rabou. "I was very happy. Now I can read again.”

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