UAE surgeons perform first cadaver heart transplant in Abu Dhabi

Dubai: In a major achievement, surgeons saved three lives by performing the country’s first ever cadaver heart and kidney transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, doctors told Gulf News on Thursday.

This marks the first ever multi organ cadaver transplant since the passing of the cadaver donor legislation.

A multidisciplinary transplant team conducted the surgeries on December 5.

Click on the image below for a detailed look at how a kidney transplant is performed

The heart transplant

The full heart transplant surgery was performed by a four-member surgical team, including Dr. Rakesh Suri, acting CEO of the clinic; Dr. Johannes Bonatti, chief of the Heart & Vascular Institute; Dr. Stefan Sanger, Clinical Associate; and Dr. Jehad Al Ramahi, Clinical Associate – all of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The heart recipient, a 38-year-old Emirati man, was suffering from end-stage heart failure and was managed by the Heart Failure and Transplant Programme for almost six months. He was placed on Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s transplant waiting list shortly after the UAE government’s decree earlier this year that allows deceased donor transplants.

The patient is currently recovering at the hospital.

The kidney transplant

On the same night, Dr. Bashir Sankari, the chief of Surgical Subspecialties Institute at the clinic, performed a kidney transplant from the same donor, providing vital surgery for another patient on the hospital’s transplant list.

Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, chairman of the clinic, Mubadala Deputy Group CEO, and Chief Executive Officer, Alternative Investments and Infrastructure, said: “We established Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to provide the people of the UAE with the highest standards of care; to stimulate medical innovation; and to invest in the development of Emirati healthcare professionals.

This remarkable series of operations delivered on all three objectives, and marked an important medical first for our hospital and our nation.”  

Dr Suri said: “It is a significant achievement for Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and our transplant team, who have accomplished a historic medical milestone in the UAE. This operation underlines the incredible social impact that our transplant services are having – thanks to one donor, we have transformed the lives of multiple patients and their families.”

He added: “The UAE has taken important strides in introducing new legislation to support transplant operations in 2017, and we are very proud that Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is the first and only multi-organ transplant facility in the country. After two years of sophisticated training and preparation, our team was fully prepared to undertake and excel in performing this innovative series of operations,” he added.

Demonstrating the remarkable benefits that organ donation can offer, teams from another medical facility in the UAE and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were also involved in the transplants.
The donor’s second kidney went to a paediatric patient at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi, while a team from the Saudi Centre for Organ Transplantation (SCOT) was present for the surgery.
The operation received strong support from the UAE National Organ Transplant Committee, who were heavily involved in the preparations for the transplant.

Dr Bonatti added: “This was a demonstration of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s multidisciplinary excellence at every level..” The donor heart started beating immediately after implantation and the heart patient was taken to the intensive care unit after six hours in the operating room.”

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has worked closely with Cleveland Clinic and Mubadala in establishing its organ transplant programme. Cleveland Clinic Transplant Centre is a world leader in organ transplantation, and the team in Abu Dhabi has benefitted significantly from sharing best practice and new innovations with their colleagues in the United States.

 Dr Feras Bader, the Director of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart Failure and Transplant Program, said: “I was called about the donor 48 hours before the transplant surgery. It was the same day that the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the world’s first heart transplant in 1967, and also the day the UAE was celebrating its 46th National Day. It’s a remarkable coincidence and one that shows the incredible progress this nation has made.”

Dr Bader said the 24-member multidisciplinary Heart Failure and Transplant team had been preparing for its first heart transplant for the past two years, including attending extensive education sessions and simulating the transplant process and surgery on multiple occasions.

For Emirati national Dr Jehad Al Ramahi, the opportunity to be part of the first UAE heart transplant team was a career-defining experience. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is committed to supporting the growth and development of UAE national physicians, as part of its efforts to help build a sustainable healthcare sector.  

Dr Rakesh Suri concluded: “This operation represents a major milestone as far as the services we can provide at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and it offers new hope for patients with heart failure in the UAE. It also demonstrates the incredible international and regional cooperation that is enabling the delivery of world-class transplant services for our community, with the support of Cleveland Clinic’s Transplant Centre in the US and the collaboration with hospitals in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia maximising the impact of these operations.”


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