PITTSBURGH, July 30, 1999 — The first liver transplant in Sicily was performed by a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center transplant team at the Istituto Mediterraneo per I Trapianti e Terapie ad Alta Specializzazione (ISMETT)—the Mediterranean Institute for Transplantation and Advanced Specialized Therapies—a joint venture of UPMC, the Italian government, and Civico and Cervella hospitals of Palermo.
Ignazio Marino, M.D., professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of ISMETT, performed the procedure on a 47-year-old man suffering from acute liver disease. The 12-hour surgery concluded about 7:30 a.m., EST (1:30 p.m. in Italy). The patient is in critical condition, as is expected after transplant surgery, and is in the intensive care unit of the recently renovated wing at Civico Hospital that houses ISMETT’s clinical activities. Physicians say the surgery went well and the patient’s vital signs are stable.
Italy’s Secretary of Health, Rosy Bindi, issued a statement today congratulating Dr. Marino and his team. In her statement, Bindi said that this is an important step in closing the gap in transplantation services between northern and southern Italy. The Italian government, under a health reform law, established ISMETT because there were no liver or heart transplant programs in Sicily. Patients needing such services were required to travel elsewhere in Italy or abroad at tremendous expense to the Italian government. It is estimated that 2,200 Sicilians die each year of liver cirrhosis and other liver diseases. ISMETT officials estimate that about 10 percent of these patients could be saved by liver transplantation. Eventually, ISMETT will be the first center in southern Italy capable of transplanting all organs.
The Italian government contracts with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to manage the facility as it would an American medical center, incorporating the most advanced technologies. UPMC also is overseeing the clinical training and educational aspects of the program. Thirty-seven Italian nurses and 12 physicians have trained in Pittsburgh, and a number of medical consultants from the UPMC will routinely visit ISMETT. Currently, there are 24 UPMC staff members and six UPMC physicians working at ISMETT.
ISMETT is the first of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s international initiatives to involve actual health care delivery. While the UPMC considers itself as a global resource for medical expertise, ISMETT reflects UPMC’s philosophy and commitment to work in partnership with the local medical community and within the cultural context of the host country.
Having performed more than 10,000 transplants, the UPMC is considered the world’s leading organ transplant center.