Eye surgeons in Ghana start training on new glaucoma treatment

As part of the celebration of eight years of MIGS in Ghana, eye surgeons have started a three-year hybrid training programme on the UHAS glaucoma operation

It has been eight years since the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) ophthalmology team started performing a minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) in Ghana, under the leadership of Dr Alfred Osafo-Kwaako, the head of ophthalmology at UHAS.

With the MIGS, glaucoma patients no longer require the daily use of glaucoma eye drops.

This capacity building programme is under the supervision of the school of medicine of UHAS, with Dr Osafo-Kwaako as the technical instructor of the training programme.

Dr Osafo-Kwaako carried out major modifications on the MIGS operation for better results in black African populations around the world. After the Ghana training programme, the UHAS plans to organise similar training programmes in other African countries and the diaspora of Africans around the world.

In Ghana, eye surgeons participating in the training programme were admitted from Korle bu Teaching Hospital, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Tamale Teaching Hospital, Cape Coast University Hospital, 37 Military Hospital, Greater Accra Ridge Hospital, Emmanuel Eye Center, Tema Christian Eye Center, Trust Hospital, Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, Manhyia Hospital, Asamang SDA Hospital.

In Ghana, it is estimated that about 700,000 people are living with glaucoma and 60,000 have already gone permanently blind due to lack of awareness, poor access to glaucoma eye drops and poor access to modern surgical interventions. Sadly, these patients have had to depend- all their lives, – on expensive eye drop therapy to manage glaucoma. Fortunately, the everyday eye drops treatment for life was reversed 8 years ago, when the UHAS eye department started delivering an affordable, painless, ten-minute surgical treatment to patients suffering from glaucoma.

In MIGS, the surgeon creates a tiny channel on the eye to relieve the pressure in the eye. This makes the use of pressure- reducing eye drops unnecessary. It takes only about 10 minutes to complete the procedure. Unlike traditional glaucoma operations that have painful eye injections, MIGS does not require any eye injections.

Since 2014, Dr Osafo-Kwaako has been the only eye surgeon performing this modified, painless, 10-minute operation in Africa, until April 2022, when four trainees from Korle bu Hospital, Tamale teaching hospital, Manhyia hospital and Asamang hospital performed their first successful operations in this UHAS training program.

On the issue of capacity building for the UHAS glaucoma operation in Ghana. Dr Osafo-Kwaako was optimistic that the training of eye surgeons will progress at a steady pace, so that by the year 2030, all eye hospitals across the country will offer this service. He was speaking at the 2018 glaucoma update conference organised by the ophthalmological society of Ghana and held at the Korle bu teaching hospital. Previous attempts to train eye surgeons in Ghana for the UHAS glaucoma operation run into difficult logistic problems and the problem of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr Osafo-Kwaako encouraged the trainees to start delivering this service to glaucoma patients in their various hospitals.

The trainees were very grateful for the training program. Dr Gifty Adom of the Asamang SDA hospital was impressed with the dedication of the technical instructor, Dr Osafo-Kwaako. She added that her new skills will help improve glaucoma care in Ghana as most of her patients are unable to afford the high cost of glaucoma drugs. Dr Gilbert Bonsana of the Tamale Teaching Hospital also added that the UHAS glaucoma procedure will help speed up his glaucoma surgeries and improve surgical outcomes and patient satisfaction.

At present, this new treatment is available at the Ho Teaching Hospital by Dr Osafo-Kwaako. It is also available at the Dr Rose Mompi Eye Hospital in Ve Kolenu, near Hohoe and their outreach camps in Kpando, Dzodze, Accra, Agona Swedru and Breman Asikuma.

Dr Osafo-Kwaako expressed special thanks to the vice chancellor of UHAS, Prof John Gyapong, the pro-vice chancellor, Prof Harry Tagbor, and the dean of the school of medicine, Prof Frank Edwin, for their support for the country wide training program on the UHAS glaucoma operation.

We also appreciate the material and logistic support of the proprietor of the Save the Nation Sight Eye Clinic, Dr Thomas Tontie Baah, as well as the encouraging support for the nationwide training program by Dr Michael Gyasi, the immediate past president of the ophthalmological society of Ghana. “I wish to thank all ophthalmic nurses, optometrists and ophthalmologists who have participated in the delivery of MIGS to patients in Ghana over the past 8 years,” Dr Osafo-Kwaako added.

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