Coordination, technology help Temple Health doctors find success at dual transplant surgeries

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Monday, April 22, 2024
Coordination and new technology help make dual transplant a success
New methods and medications are giving patients long, healthy lives, whether for a single organ or more than one.

WILLIAMSTOWN, New Jerey (WPVI) -- It's been 40 years since Philadelphia's first heart transplant was performed at Temple University Hospital.

Today, new methods and medications are giving patients long, healthy lives, whether for a single organ, or more than one.

Sal Pantalone knows Polycystic Kidney Disease all too well.

"My father had it, my uncle had it. My father's cousin has it. My sister has it," Pantalone notes.

Still, when he developed the first signs in his 20s, Sal was in denial about the disease, having seen the years his father spent on dialysis before a kidney transplant.

His creatinine levels climbed, he had occasional gout and fluid buildups.

"But it really reared its head once I had the heart attack," Sal says.

And it was a major attack, with damage that later required pacemaker and defibrillator implants.

Over time, his heart and kidneys gave out.

"I blew up to 280 pounds, of that, probably 50 pounds was fluid," he remembers.

Pantalone was so weak another hospital rejected him for a heart and kidney transplant.

"I was told to get my things in order. So my wife and I did. We literally sold our place down at the shore," he says.

"But my wife was not going to take no for an answer," Pantalone says. "She was calling around to hospitals, some pretty far away, some across the country."

"Temple was willing to take a chance," he says.

When Temple said yes to an evaluation, heart failure specialist Dr. Carly Fabrizio knew time was short.

"And she came in and she said, Sal, we're gonna have you on the list in a week," Pantalone remembers.

Dr. Fabrizio says multi-organ transplants require coordination from all the specialties.

"We really coordinate and streamline the workup together to make sure that we're not repeating things," she says

Transplant surgeon Dr. Antonio DiCarlo says most multiple transplants involve a kidney.

"It is not unusual these days to do a heart and kidney, as well as a liver and kidney. And then also a pancreas and kidney," Dr. DiCarlo says.

However, they are seldom transplanted at the same time.

"It's two operations, two surgical teams," says Dr. DiCarlo.

The heart often goes in first.

"We need to ensure a period of stability, which is usually within a 24-hour period, and then the kidney typically will go in as well," says Dr. Fabrizio.

Perfusion pumps keep organs viable longer.

"They come out in better condition, while the injury of death and procurement is removed or lessened," says Dr. DiCarlo.

Pantalone went home just 10 days after his transplants, and is back at the shore, where he and his wife met.

"My recovery was phenomenal. I literally had one day of pain," he emphasizes.

The doctors say survival rates are about the same whether it's a single or dual transplant.

In fact, some studies found less rejection after the multiple transplants.