All-Female ISMETT Surgical Team Performs Double Lung Transplant

By: Francesca Valagussa

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped lifesaving transplants from occurring at UPMC-managed ISMETT in Palermo, Italy. The hospital, which has provided the region with world-class transplant and high-specialty care for more than two decades, is a public-private partnership between UPMC and the region of Sicily.

Dr. Lavinia De Monte

Most recently, a young patient from Sicily suffering from terminal respiratory failure underwent a successful bilateral lung transplant under the care of an all-female surgical team—a first for ISMETT.

Drs. Lavinia De Monte and Domenica Giunta led the complex procedure, preparing the recipient for transplant in synchrony with Dr. Giorigia Tancredi, who traveled beyond Sicily to harvest the donor lungs during a three-hour long operation and transport them back to ISMETT.

Dr. Domenica Giunta

“Lung transplantation is a long-lasting and highly complex procedure. It can be completed only with great dedication, expertise and tenacity,” said Dr. Alessandro Bertani, who leads ISMETT’s thoracic surgery and lung transplantation division. “More and more female physicians are dedicating themselves to this type of surgery in Italy, demonstrating excellent theoretical and technical skills. The success of this operation is due to the tremendous work of Drs. De Monte, Giunta, Tancredi and their teams.”

Dr. Giorigia Tancredi

The operation on the recipient lasted more than eight hours—with the 30-person surgical team engaged for 24 full hours in the delicate process of preparing for and completing the transplant. The patient was able to return home for Christmas after regaining strong respiratory function.

In a busy month for the hospital, ISMETT staff also performed one of Italy’s first liver transplant between coronavirus-positive patients in December. A few days later, a 21-year-old refugee from Mali underwent a successful kidney transplant after waiting for a donated organ for four years.

ISMETT, which performed 163 organ transplants in all of 2020, revised protocols and increased protective measures to ensure maximum safety for patients and donors during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when it became more important than ever to provide necessary health care close to home.