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Pediatric surgery in United Arab Emirates


Prof Dr Iftikhar Ahmad Jan

Head of Pediatric Surgery Department

Zayed Military Hospital

Abu Dhabi, UAE



United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a young and modern nation and has shown amazing development of infrastructure and manpower development since its independence in 1971. UAE is a family of seven emirates and includes Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. It is now a global hub for tourism, finance and also popular for its marvels like world's tallest building, largest man-made seaport and beautiful mosques.

UAE faces heath challenges for its local Emirati population and also a diverse population of residents from various countries. Healthcare remained a top priority for the rulers of UAE since its induction and now it ranks among the top countries for the best health care services. The U.A.E. Vision 2021 states “the UAE will invest continually to build world-class healthcare infrastructure, expertise and services in order to fulfill citizens’ growing needs and expectations.” There is a firm commitment on the vision 2021 and is reflected by the huge investment in health care facilities in UAE.

A fully equipped Pediatric surgery unit started functioning in UAE as early as 1976. Pediatric surgery departments were then established in various emirates and attracted a very capable team of pediatric surgeons from within the country and around the globe. Working together they made the foundation of a very vibrant pediatric surgery community in UAE. With the induction of modern pediatric surgery units, complex surgical procedures were performed which included successful separation of conjoined twins in 1985 and many other major procedures in various emirates. At present there are several pediatric surgery units working in all emirates both in public and private sector and are keeping in pace with the recent advances in pediatric surgery. Pediatric surgeons in UAE are managing pediatric patients with a variety of congenital and acquired conditions and are performing general pediatric surgery, neonatal surgery, pediatric urological surgery including disorders of sex development, pediatric endoscopies and minimally invasive surgeries. Pediatric cardiac furgery facilities are also available in selected tertiary care centers.

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has revolutionized the practice of pediatric surgery and UAE has been moving forwards with the recent advances in pediatric minimally invasive procedures. Most centers are now performing surgeries like appendectomies, surgery for mal-rotation, reduction of intussusception, fundoplication’s, pyloromyotomies, pyeloplasties, excision of ovarian masses and other common procedures by minimally invasive techniques. Similarly MIS for impalpable testis & hernia repair is practiced routinely in most centers. The practice of MIS for thoracic conditions is also now well established and most centers are preforming thoracoscopic biopsies, decortication for empyema and excision of thoracic lesions routinely. Centers in major cities are also preforming advance thoracoscopic procedures like esophageal atresia repair, lobectomies and repair of diaphragmatic defects by MIS techniques. Minimally invasive surgery for neonates is also practiced in major centers and surgery for bowel atresia, pylomyotomies, and diaphragmatic hernia repair etc are now performed using minimally invasive techniques. This has lead to reduced number of referral to other countries for treatment of complex pediatric surgical conditions. Furthermore UAE is now becoming a favorite destination for pediatric surgical health services for the neighboring countries.

Continuous medical education (CME) is an integral part of improving patients care. UAE pediatric surgical club is a vibrant group and all units actively participate in various CME activities of pediatric surgery. UAE pediatric surgeons meet every two months on rotation in various emirates and present difficult and interesting cases. Some sessions are dedicated to update on common pediatric surgical conditions. This is followed by a healthy discussion on various aspects of patients care. Beside the regular meetings workshops and conferences are arranged by various departments to share their work and to get an update on the practice of pediatric surgery in the region. Pediatric Surgeons in UAE are also very vibrant in communication with each other and complex cases are posted on the closed discussion forum for opinion and advise.

Postgraduate training in pediatric surgery is at present limited to few centers. Deliberations are currently underway to set up an Arab Board accredited postgraduate training program in pediatric surgery. The concepts is to have a high quality postgraduate training program in pediatric surgery where each trainee gets an opportunity to rotate in various departments for maximum exposure to learn the art & craft of pediatric surgery.

In conclusion, Pediatric surgery in UAE is well established and pediatric surgical patients shall enjoy state of art care; keeping in pace with the advances in pediatric surgery for achieving the best results. This is all possible with the strong commitment of the rulers of UAE to provide the best possible care to the pediatric surgery patients.