UAE’s First Living Donor Pediatric Liver Transplant Takes Place at Burjeel Medical City

Abu Dhabi: In a groundbreaking medical achievement, the first pediatric liver transplant in the UAE has been performed on a four-year-old girl. This was also the first living donor pediatric liver transplant in the country. This milestone surgery carried out at Burjeel Medical City (BMC) marks a significant leap forward in the UAE’s advanced medical capabilities.

The patient, Razia Khan, was diagnosed with a rare, genetic liver condition called Progressive Familial Intrahepatic Cholestasis type 3 (PFIC). Razia’s family was all too familiar with the devastating effects of PFIC, having lost their first daughter to the same condition three years ago.

They wasted no time in consulting doctors when she started exhibiting symptoms like yellow eyes, gum bleeding, and extreme tiredness when she was as young as three months old. She was given medication and advised routine check-ups till she was old enough for a liver transplant. In the last few years, Razia’s condition prevented her from attending nursery and achieving growth milestones appropriate for her age. 

Enduring a Heartbreaking Loss

“Having lost one daughter to the same condition, every day was filled with fear. I wasn’t sure what would happen. Every day I was afraid of losing her,” recalls her father, Imran Khan, who has been a UAE resident for the last 14 years and works as a trading coordinator. 

Three months ago, a routine check-up revealed that Razia’s spleen and liver had enlarged. Doctors recommended that it was time to consider a transplant. When they learned that the service was available at BMC, they consulted the transplant team without delay.

“Razia’s condition is caused due to a genetic mutation, which leads to an abnormality in the formation and secretion of bile components and bile acids, ultimately leading to damage to the liver. It presents in infancy and early childhood as signs of growth failure and complications of liver failure. The only definitive & curative treatment for these children is liver transplantation,” said Dr. Rehan Saif, Director Transplant Surgery for Burjeel Abdominal Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Clinical Lead HPB Surgery, Consultant General Surgery.

After extensive evaluations, the doctors recommended that a liver transplant was necessary to save Razia’s life. In an act of love and duty, her father volunteered to be the donor.

Stepping Forward as a Donor

Mr. Khan’s decision to be the donor was a deeply personal one. “We didn’t explore any donors from outside, although many in our family were willing to step forward. I was found to be a match, and as a father, I decided to do this for my child,” he said.

The transplant team at BMC, led by Dr. Saif, successfully performed simultaneous donor and recipient surgeries, which lasted 12 hours. Other members of the team included Dr Johns Mathew, Abdominal Transplant and Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Surgeon; Dr. Gourab Sen, Consultant General Surgery (Specialized in Hepatobiliary and Abdominal Multi-Organ Transplant Surgery); Dr. Ramamurthy Baskaran, Consultant Anesthesiology & Transplant Anesthesia, and team; Dr. Kesava Ramakrishnan, Consultant Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and team; and Dr. Shyam Mohan, Pediatric Radiologist.

“This is a monumental achievement for the UAE’s medical community. It ensures that children like Razia can receive life-saving treatments without the need to travel abroad. We are proud to have reached this milestone and look forward to helping more families in the future,” said Dr. Saif

According to the doctor, Razia has made an excellent recovery from her life-saving liver transplant and will be on regular follow-up. Her physical and intellectual development will return to normalcy with an improved quality of life. She will be able to start school and enjoy her childhood like any other child her age.

Hopeful About the Future

The successful transplant has paved the way for Razia’s recovery and a return to normal life. After a long and emotionally wrenching journey, her parents are filled with relief. “Now that the surgery is done and we are recovering, at least there is no risk anymore. We are waiting for her to be discharged and have made many plans for her,” said Mr. Khan, who expressed his gratitude to the entire team at BMC for ensuring a seamless process and providing them with world-class care. 

Today, BMC stands fully equipped and prepared to offer both adult and pediatric multi-organ transplant services, setting new benchmarks in medical care within the region. As Razia continues to recover, her story serves as a reminder of the advancements in medical science and the love of a parent willing to sacrifice everything for their child’s life.