UH Med Now
2003 University of Hawaiʻi MD alumnus performs Oʻahu’s first “DMEK” surgery, an advanced technique for corneal transplant
Pictured: Dr. Wong performing the DMEK procedure. Photo courtesy of The Eye Surgery Center of Hawaiʻi.
By Tina Shelton, JABSOM Communications Director
2003 John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) alumnus Jeff Wong, MD, a Honolulu ophthalmologist and corneal surgeon, has performed a Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) corneal transplant, only the second so far in Hawaiʻi. Dr. Wong, who performed his residency and fellowship training outside of Hawaiʻi after graduation because JABSOM has no ophthalmology post-graduate education, returned home after his advanced training, bringing the newest practices in eye surgery with him to teach as a JABSOM Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery and to treat patients at The Eye Surgery Center of Hawaiʻi at the Honolulu Eye Clinic.
For patients suffering from poor vision due to conditions such as Fuchs’ corneal endothelial dystrophy and corneal swelling, corneal transplantation has been a surgical therapy for over 100 years, according to Dr. Wong. The cornea is the clear dome shaped “window” in front of the iris, the colored part of the eye. Historically, corneal transplants remove a full thickness area of a patient’s cornea (replacing both healthy and diseased tissue), and a donor full thickness corneal graft is then sewn onto the patient’s eye. This older full thickness technique often results in high levels of astigmatism, higher chances of rejection, slow visual recovery up to one year, and are more susceptible to injury after trauma.
“However, over the past 20 years, techniques have been pioneered to replace only the dysfunctional inner layer of the cornea, preserving the rest of the patient’s healthy cornea,” said Dr. Wong. “Named endothelial keratoplasty, it has significantly improved vision, and dramatically reduced graft rejection.”
DMEK is the newest and most advanced form of endothelial keratoplasty
The DMEK tissue is only about 10 microns in thickness or 2% of the total cornea, compared with the older technique which uses tissue of about 100 microns (for comparison, a human hair is approximately 75 microns). Dr. Wong says the thinner DMEK tissue results in better vision for patients, faster recovery, and a drastic decline in transplant rejection.
“I am excited to help expand the delivery of this incredible technique to the islands, as I always want to be able to offer the best possible results for my patients,” Dr. Wong said.
About Jeff Wong, MD
For more information about Dr. Wong and his practice, please visit HonoluluEyeClinic.com.
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