August 14, 1995
From CorrespondentJohn Zarrella
MIAMI, Fla. (CNN) -- A young Italian man is recovering in Miami from what his doctors say may have been the most complex transplant surgery ever performed. Doctors at the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical Center replaced virtually everything -- six organs -- in Leonardo Cioce's abdomen.
The 27-year-old man was in surgery for 36 hours during the procedure a month and a half ago. His surgeons said such an operation has probably never been attempted before. "What's unique about Leonardo's case is that because of the tumors that he had in his abdomen, we had to remove every single organ of his abdomen from the diaphragm to the pelvis and then replace them all," said Dr. Andreas Tzakis.
A rare hereditary disease called Gardner's Syndrome was causing liver failure, kidney disfunction and internal bleeding. Surgeons removed Cioce's liver, stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, spleen and both kidneys. The only things left in his abdomen were blood vessels from the heart to the legs. All the organs were replaced with the exception of one of the two kidneys and the spleen. Doctors said tumors associated with disease complicated Cioce's condition. Tumors such as those Cioce had "strangle organs," Tzakis said. "They encase the intestine, the vessels that go to the intestine or the ureters, both of them to their entire extent in this case."
Nearly a month after his surgery, Cioce is improving steadily. A computer programmer back in Italy, he was diagnosed with the disease at age 18 and had grown progressively worse. His only wish now is to lead a normal life. "I'll try my best to return to my life before the disease," Cioce said through a translator. "Each time I see little kids running around, I hope to be able to do the same soon, since I get really tired after just a few steps."
Doctors say Cioce is not out of the woods. Multiple organ transplants are complex and rejection is a constant worry. But, he is strong, and so far anti-rejection drugs are working. But doctors say the operation will not be deemed a success until Cioce can return to a normal life.
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