Al Ain, UAE: Doctors at Tawam Hospital have saved the life of a 47-year-old man who was falling victim to unbridled growth.
The patient, an Arab expatriate, underwent a six-hour-long complex operation that was performed for the first time in the UAE, a member of the hospital’s multi-disciplinary team that conducted the operation told Gulf News.
The abnormal growth was described by doctors as ‘disfigurement’ of the patient’s extremities that include hands, feet and head, along with a number of other bodily disorders.
“The patient was suffering from acromegaly — a complication caused by the excessive growth hormone in adulthood,” said Dr Ali Al Houni, a consultant endocrinologist at the hospital.
The patient had developed an adenoma, a non-malignant tumour of the pituitary gland that disturbed the gland’s normal function. The pituitary gland, which is generally called the master gland, controls the activities of all other glands in the body, including thyroid, adrenal and reproductive glands. It is located right underneath the brain.
“The growth hormones normally stop when a person enters adulthood, but that was unfortunately not the case with the patient,” said Dr Al Houni, who is also a specialist in endocrine oncology.
Acromegaly is a rare but complex disease of mainly adults aged between 40 to 60 that results in serious physical disfigurement, he added.
The disease progresses slowly and is difficult to diagnose in the early stages. The symptoms include headache and blurred vision.
“It can kill a patient mostly by triggering cardiovascular and censorious complications if left untreated,” said Dr Al Houni.
The patient was recently operated upon jointly by doctors from the hospital’s endocrinology, oncology, ENT, and neurology departments.
“It was a complex but successful operation and the patient is recovering,” said the doctor.
Dr Al Houni said acromegaly is one of the several ailments of the pituitary gland that has recently been found to be on the increase in the UAE.
“It’s actually not alarming in a sense that we believe these diseases were already there but people had no knowledge of them,” he said.
The availability of advance diagnostic and medical facilities in the country has been playing an important role, along with raising public awareness, in the detection of these complications, he said.
When the master gland malfunctions it affects all the glands, including thyroid, adrenal and reproductive glands that play a critical role in the physical and mental growth of a person. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two major disorders of the endocrine system, said Dr Al Houni.
Tawam Hospital, which operates in affiliation with Johns Hopkins Medicine, added a speciality clinic in October 2011 to treat pituitary gland disorders. The clinic receives patients every Monday.
The pituitary clinic has specialised equipment, dedicated doctors and nurses. It handles around six patients a day and a multi-disciplinary team handles the patient once a disorder is diagnosed, said Dr Al Houni.
The disorders are often treated through surgery, medication and radiotherapy.
“It’s a life-long treatment and often requires hormonal replacement,” said the doctor. The hospital, he said, has been receiving referral patients from all over the UAE.
According to the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), some 54 per cent of thyroid and other endocrine gland disorder patients are Emirati and the disorder is among the top five causes of fatalities in the UAE.
© Gulf NewsJun 2013