Lifestyle-linked liver diseases see a rise among Emiratis
Emiratis topped the list of patients who undergo liver transplants.
Published: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 8:51 PM
Last updated: Tue 29 Jan 2019, 8:04 AM
Lifestyle diseases have taken over chronic diseases of the liver over the years among Emiratis - often resulting in necessary transplants, surgeons have said.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, top surgeons from the Asian American Liver Centre (AALC) in Singapore said Emiratis topped the list of patients who undergo liver transplants at the centre.
"However, the fatty liver - which is a lifestyle disease - is not restricted to Emiratis. It is a disease of developed countries," said Dr Lee Kang Hoe, senior consultant with a clinical interest in critical care and liver transplant, during his recent visit to Dubai.
"Lifestyles have changed very rapidly over the past 20 years or so. We now see that 30 per cent of patients have fatty liver, of which 40 per cent are diabetic," said Dr Lee.
Dr Lee said Emiratis had large families, which makes it easier for the centre to find donors.
"In most cases, the donors are young people - children of the recipient - and having large families means it is easier to find a match."
Dr Tan Kai Tan, hepatobiliary/liver transplant surgeon, said the best option for patients was to come with potential donors.
"It is easier for children to donate to their parents as they are the best match," said the doctor who has pioneered several procedures and performed over 400 transplant procedures in the UK.
"Donors are assessed to see if they are medically and psychologically fit and referred from the UAE," said Dr Tan.
The process to start the transplant takes a week to 10 days. A request is submitted to the Ministry of Health, Singapore, as well as the ethics committee, after which a cooling-off period is given to the donor (in case they want to change their mind).
The donor surgery takes up to six hours while for the recipient, it can take from eight to 14 hours. The donor is required to stay in the hospital for a week and then can recuperate in a hotel for the remaining time.
The recipient, on the other hand, needs to stay longer in Singapore to check for complications.
"Usually all the follow-ups are done by local doctors in the UAE and management is also done here," said Dr Tan. In Singapore, regulations do not allow patients to be provided with donors.
The doctors said transplants give another lease of life to patients who can live a normal life after the procedure despite having to take medications for lifelong.
Talking about transplants in the UAE, the doctors said that the transplant market is still in its infancy stage.