Woman with tumour behind eyeball has sight saved after 12-hour operation

Farida, a domestic worker from the Philippines, had a 4cm growth

A tumour behind the eyeball can be seen in this X-ray image from Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi. Credit: VPS Healthcare
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A 12-hour operation using the latest imaging technology has helped save the sight of a Filipina housemaid in Abu Dhabi.

Pioneering surgery using MRI technology to identify blood vessels and nerves enabled surgeons to remove a tumour behind the eye of the 41-year-old woman, called Farida.

A team of specialists at Burjeel Medical City intervened when the sight in her left eye started to deteriorate.

An X-ray later revealed a tumour four centimetres wide that was continuing to grow.

It was pressing on her optic nerve, weakening her sight and causing the eyeball to bulge and protrude.

The operation was conducted by Dr Salim Kanaan, a consultant neurosurgeon.

He said the hospital had used advanced intra-operative MRI technology for the first time in the procedure.

The Filipina housemaid, Farida, had her operation paid for by her Emirati employers. Photo: VPS healthcare

“We removed the entire tumour without damaging any blood vessels or the optic nerve,” he said.

“Any error while doing the surgery would have caused blindness or damaged the optic nerve of the patient.”

Dr Kanaan said the technology enables surgeons to view MRI scan images in real time on a screen in the operating theatre, “so there is no chance of committing a clinical error”.

“It spares the patient from undergoing a second surgery or exposure to chemotherapy or radiation if there is no need for it.”

The cost of the procedure was not revealed, but similar surgery typically costs up to $60,000 (Dh220,000).

It was not covered by Farida’s health insurance owing to its specialist nature, and the outstanding fees were covered by her Emirati employer.

The use of magnetic resonance technology in the operating room helped medics to locate the position of the tumour precisely and determine whether it had spread elsewhere.

Data extracted from the scan allowed surgeons to pinpoint the growth before and during the progress of the surgery.

All of the equipment used in the operation was metal-free, to ensure there was no interference with the sensitive imaging machinery.

After five days in the hospital to recover, Farida was discharged. She is expected to fully regain her sight.

“MRI technology gives an edge to surgeons in removing tumours,” Dr Kanaan said.

“The removal of these tumours is challenging, as it is difficult to determine their size and location accurately.”

Updated: January 10, 2022, 4:58 AM