Sight-Restoring Operation Gives Patient ‘a New Window to the World’

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network of healthcare providers, have performed the UAE’s first artificial cornea transplant in an effort to restore a patient’s eyesight.

The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped window that protects the eye and helps the lens focus light. This vital part of the eye can become clouded or damaged due to eye disease or injury, causing vision loss and even blindness. To overcome this, corneal transplants replace the damaged cornea with tissue from a donor, restoring or improving vision significantly. 

While cornea transplants from a human donor have been used for a number of years, some patients with severe corneal or ocular surface disease are not candidates for this traditional approach since a transplanted cornea would quickly succumb to disease or be rejected, offering no improvement for their condition. The introduction of artificial corneal transplants, known as keratoprostheses, offers those patients fresh hope of restoring their vision. Made of modern materials rather than donor tissue, the artificial cornea cannot be affected by clouding or rejection.

“Artificial corneal transplants are designed for people whose eye disease is so advanced, they would not be a candidate for a regular transplant. Using an artificial cornea means the body cannot attack or reject the transplant. The center of the eye remains clear, giving the patient a new window to the world,” says Dr. Samuel Navon, Department Chair of anterior segment, cornea and refractive disorders at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute.

During the operation, surgeons remove the patient’s diseased cornea and replace it with a three-part prosthetic composed of a titanium backplate, a clear artificial cornea and a ring of donor tissue to help secure it in place. As the human tissue only surrounds the new, artificial cornea, if it is rejected by the body it does not impact the patient’s restored vision.

“We give patients a new cornea that won’t be rejected by the body. Surrounding that, we use human donor tissue that we almost expect to be rejected. However, this has no impact on the patient or their vision, it is simply there to make sure the new cornea stays in place,” explains Dr. Navon.

Conditions that can cause a patient to require conventional cornea transplant include infections, injuries and keratoconus, a condition that is more common in the Gulf region than many other parts of the world. However, when traditional transplants have failed, or if the ocular surface is also damaged, studies have shown better success with artificial cornea transplants.

Doctors anticipate they will perform several artificial corneal transplants each year. The operation takes a little over an hour and is usually treated as a day case, with patients able to be discharged the same day. Following the surgery, regular postoperative visits are required to check for possible complications and monitor the overall health of the eye.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute offers patients state-of-the-art digital imaging, surgical and laser procedures. The Institute provides medical and surgical treatments ranging from laser vision correction (including LASIK and SMILE) to procedures for more serious ophthalmic conditions including uveitis and diabetic eye disorders, in both adults and children.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network of world-class healthcare providers, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Investment Company:

Mubadala Investment Company is a sovereign investor managing a global portfolio, aimed at generating sustainable financial returns for the Government of Abu Dhabi.

Mubadala’s $232 billion (AED 853 billion) portfolio spans six continents with interests in multiple sectors and asset classes. We leverage our deep sectoral expertise and long-standing partnerships to actively source deals. In the UAE, we are driving sustainable growth by optimizing scale and efficiency, supporting the continued diversification and global integration of the local economy while growing our shareholder value. 

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, Mubadala has offices in London, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, New York, San Francisco and Beijing.