Abu Dhabi: Last year was a milestone year for organ transplants in the UAE. The groundbreaking procedures marked the biggest strides in health care in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. This year will continue to build on those achievements, just as a raft of regulations introduced by the health-care regulator, the Department of Health, should help improve standards in the sector.

The UAE had long allowed organ transplants. Kidneys had been transplanted between living donors for nearly a decade. In addition, the first solid organ transplant from a deceased donor — that of a kidney — was performed in 2013. A heart from a deceased donor was transplanted in 2017 after a presidential decree clarifying the concept of brain death came into effect.

But it was 2018 that transformed the field of organ transplantation in the country. In total, more than 25 ailing people in the UAE benefited last year alone after receiving organs from deceased donors. In most cases, multiple organs were harvested from the deceased and transplanted into more than one ailing patient.

Successful transplants at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, including the first transplant of a liver from a deceased donor and a lung from a deceased donor, meant that the country gained its first multi-organ transplant centre. Surgeons at the renowned hospital also went on to perform a double-lung transplant, a complex five-and-a half-hour procedure that gave a 45-year-old Arab woman a new lease on life.

Top doctors have told Gulf News that the country now needs a nationwide donor registry, along with a coordinated transplant list to connect potential donors, the patients and health care facilities. Based on statements from health officials, a registry is in the works and is likely to be launched this year, thereby allowing UAE residents to officially register their willingness to donate organs.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health’s focus on tackling childhood obesity in Abu Dhabi is expected to push for new initiatives to tackle the problem. The department has banned food high in sugar and salt content from being served at cafeterias in health care facilities.