Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Mahmoud A. Khaimi, MD, knew from an early age that he wanted to be a doctor. Although he decided in the fifth grade to pursue medicine, it wasn’t until his residency at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit that Dr. Khaimi decided to become a glaucoma specialist. This led to a fellowship at Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI), where he eventually joined the faculty.
Q: Where did you complete your undergrad and where did you pursue your medical degree?
A: I completed my undergraduate degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, with a full ride scholarship. I then pursued my medical degree at Wayne State School of Medicine.
Q: What led you to join DMEI?
A: During residency, I knew I wanted to become a glaucoma specialist, and I asked my mentor at Henry Ford Hospital where some of the most prestigious glaucoma fellowship training programs were in the country. DMEI was definitely high on the list and so that is why I pursued DMEI. I was fortunate enough to do a fellowship here at DMEI, and throughout that year, I realized DMEI was extremely professional, prestigious, and above all, offered the best eye care to patients.
Q: What sparked your interest in glaucoma surgery? Why is this an important area of eye health to study and research?
A: For one, glaucoma is a sight-threatening eye disease. Anything we can do to stop that was of high interest for me, because I could really make a difference in a patient’s quality of life and their disease process. So early on in residency, and later as I did my glaucoma fellowship training, it became clear I was interested in doing the meticulous glaucoma surgery from which some people would shy away. It is because I am so surgically driven and comfortable in the operating room, that it led me to try to figure out ways to advance our glaucoma procedures – how to make them better, how to make them more efficient, and how to make them safer.
Q: Congratulations on your recognition as the Journal Record’s 2017 Innovator of the Year for developing a minimally invasive glaucoma surgery called ab-interno canaloplasty. Please tell us more about this procedure.
A: I believe it was in early 2008 that I adopted a procedure called canaloplasty. It was revolutionary for the time because, unlike most glaucoma procedures, canaloplasty tried to rejuvenate the natural drain system of the eye, whereas other traditional glaucoma surgeries would identify that the drain system was diseased and that we would have to bypass it in some form or fashion. So I adopted canaloplasty and was recognized as one of the leading pioneers of that procedure in the United States and the world, and I then did a tremendous amount of this canaloplasty procedure. In doing this procedure, as with other procedures, I always tried to figure out how to make this procedure more efficient and safer with excellent outcomes. Roughly four years ago I developed a procedure called ABiC, ab interno canaloplasty, using the iTrack catheter, and that is why I received the Journal Record’s 2017 Innovator of the Year Award. This procedure is minimally invasive. It is a simple procedure that can be done on an eye to help halt the progression of glaucoma, and is very safe with very good results and it has gone on to achieve national and international recognition. The ab interno canaloplasty procedure involves ballooning or dilating open the eye’s natural drain system, which is thought to be diseased, collapsed, or not present. The goal is to rejuvenate the eye’s natural outflow system in a natural way, and it is less invasive than cataract surgery.
Q: What are some common conditions you diagnose in patients? What are some of the underlying factors that caused these issues? And, what is the importance of regular checkups for glaucoma?
A: As a glaucoma specialist, I see patients who are suspected of having glaucoma. So I diagnose in patients the various forms of glaucoma such as open-angle glaucoma, closed-angle glaucoma, or any eye condition that could cause glaucoma in the eye.
The underlying risk factors for glaucoma include a family history of glaucoma, advanced age, and race as African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to experience glaucoma.
Injury to the eye and inflammatory conditions of the eye can also cause glaucoma. Any kind of intraocular surgery to the eye can also lead to glaucoma. The problem with your run-of-the-mill open-angle glaucoma, which is the most common form of glaucoma in the United States, is that you can have glaucoma and not even know it. In fact, 50 percent of the two million or more folks out there suffering with glaucoma in the United States have no idea they have this disease, and that is because with glaucoma you could have elevated intraocular pressures in the eye and not even know it. There are no symptoms until it is too late. This is why it is very important to have regular eye exams.
Q: What can a patient expect at their first exam?
A: They can expect a full dilated exam, which would include a slit-lamp exam, looking at the general appearance of the eye, checking the eye pressure, and checking the corneal thickness of the eye. Thin corneas are a definite independent risk factor for glaucoma. We would also do a visual field test to see if there is any loss of side vision. We also take a look at the posterior part of the eye, mainly looking at the optic nerve to see if there are any signs of glaucoma. We also do diagnostics on the optic nerve to see if there is thinning of the optic nerve, which can be suggestive of glaucoma.
Q: Once glaucoma is diagnosed, what are a patient’s treatment options? Is surgery always necessary?
A: The treatment options fall into three categories: topical medication with eye drops, laser, or surgical treatment. Unlike the past, surgery is no longer a tertiary option; it has been advanced because our procedures are so safe and effective now that we are doing a surgery a lot earlier than we did in the past. So just because you have been diagnosed with glaucoma does not mean you will have glaucoma surgery, but those suffering with glaucoma should know that our surgical options for glaucoma treatment are much safer these days, less invasive, and very effective. So it could benefit the patient very early on in the disease process.
Q: Are there measures a patient can take to prevent glaucoma?
A: Not necessarily. Genetics and age are factors that cannot be altered. A lot of patients ask me if there are any dietary supplements or any kind of exercise that would prevent glaucoma, and to this date this is not the case. There is nothing that one could take to prevent glaucoma.
Q: In addition, we would love to know about your hobbies or interests – just some of the things that let us show your personality.
A: My lovely wife Suzan and I have five kids and we love to do things together. I am an avid hunter and fisherman, as is my family, so we definitely enjoy anything to do with the outdoors.
To learn more, read the KOKH story on Dr. Khaimi and his glaucoma surgery patient, “Beating Blindness, ‘I’m glad I met him before it was too late