A multidisciplinary team of physicians and clinical professionals meticulously planned the hospital’s first surgery to provide a patient with a new heart and a new liver.
Tampa General Hospital is first in Tampa Bay and first in West Florida to successfully perform a combined heart and liver transplant on a patient with end-stage heart and liver disease. The patient is 56-year-old Justine Gant, who suffers from both severe heart and liver disease.
His conditions were so critical that he needed a transplant for both organs.
“Mr. Gant’s case is unique because his heart and liver disease are not connected. Typically, the heart impacts the liver or the liver disease impacts the heart, but he had two separate conditions,” said Dr. Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, a Tampa General Hospital cardiologist and medical director of advanced heart failure. Rinde-Hoffman oversaw Gant’s pre-surgery care.
“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is playing with my grandkids and playing basketball,” Gant said. “Those are the things I love to do most, and I haven’t been able to do them for such a long time. Before my surgery, I was always just so tired. I’m so excited to be able to do them again.” He spoke through an interpreter, as he is deaf.
Tampa General is now one of five hospitals in Florida that have performed a combined heart and liver transplant. The academic medical center is among the nation’s leaders in the number of transplants performed in 2021. Tampa General has performed a total of more than 11,000 transplants since the program began in 1974.
“A surgery of this type requires precise planning, coordination and teamwork across multiple medical disciplines,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. “It’s a real-life demonstration of our team’s commitment to innovation and safety.”
“Each organ transplant is a highly specialized process all its own. Because of this, combined organ transplant surgeries require a high degree of collaboration. Our multidisciplinary team met several times to plan for all aspects of the surgery, from pre-surgery care to Mr. Gant’s recovery,” said Dr. Kiran Dhanireddy, executive director of the Tampa General Hospital Transplant Institute. Dhanireddy performed the liver transplant portion of the combined surgery, along with Dr. Vijay Subramanian, liver transplant surgeon, Tampa General Hospital.
The cardiothoracic surgeon who performed the heart transplant portion of the combined surgery was Dr. Lucian Lozonschi, professor and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic and Transplantation Surgery in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and associate director of the USF Health and Tampa General Hospital Heart & Vascular Institute.
“Combined heart-liver transplants are rare and offered at a few selected programs. We are happy to provide this option to this unique type of patient,” Lozonschi said. “Mr. Gant’s heart condition was so severe that he could not be considered a candidate for liver transplant surgery unless his heart condition was addressed. His liver condition was also serious and he really needed to have both surgeries at the same time.”
Gant’s surgery took approximately 12 hours. His recovery at Tampa General is expected to take about two to four weeks.
“Although he had two serious conditions, Mr. Gant has a very positive outlook and that will play a big role in his recovery,” said Dr. Benjamin Mackie, medical director of heart transplantation at Tampa General.
“Communication is key for the recovery of all transplant patients,” said Dr. Mackie. “In addition to all the clinical specialties involved, Mr. Gant’s sign language interpreters are a critical part of his care and recovery,” said Dr. Mackie.
To increase the communication between himself and his cardiologists, Gant teaches words in American Sign Language to Dr. Rinde-Hoffman during bedside care routines. “I really enjoy communicating with him in this way,” she said. “He teaches me two to three words every time I see him.”
Another important part of Mr. Gant’s care is the lifesaving gift of organ donation. "LifeLink of Florida works with hospital partners, donors and their families to recover lifesaving organs for transplant on the Florida West Coast. Currently, 107,000 people in the United States and 5,000 individuals in Florida are on the national transplant waiting list. One donor has the potential to save eight lives through organ donation and can enhance up to 75 lives through tissue donation. Anyone regardless of their age or health condition can register to save lives at Donate Life Florida or when renewing or obtaining a driver's license," said Liz Lehr senior vice president/executive director, LifeLink of Florida.
To learn more about the Tampa General Transplant Institute, please visit: https://www.tgh.org/services/transplant.
ABOUT TAMPA GENERAL HOSPITAL
Tampa General Hospital, a 1,041-bed non-profit academic medical center, is one of the largest hospitals in America and delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. Tampa General Hospital is the highest-ranked hospital in the market in U.S. News & World Report's 2021-22 Best Hospitals, and one of the top 4 hospitals in Florida, with five specialties ranking among the best programs in the United States. The academic medical center’s commitment to growing and developing its team members is recognized by two prestigious 2021 Forbes magazine rankings – America’s Best Employers by State, third out of 100 Florida companies and first among health care and social organizations and 13th nationally in America’s Best Employers for Women. Tampa General is the safety net hospital for the region, caring for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, and in fiscal 2020 provided a net community benefit worth more than $182.5 million in the form of health care for underinsured patients, community education and financial support to community health organizations in Tampa Bay. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With five medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center and its 32-bed Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit is the largest on the West Coast of Florida. It also is home to the Jennifer Leigh Muma 82-bed Level IV neonatal intensive care unit, and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes 17 Tampa General Medical Group Primary Care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Brandon Healthplex, TGH Virtual Health and 19 outpatient Radiology Centers. Tampa Bay residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics, and they can even receive home visits in select areas through TGH Urgent Care at Home, powered by Fast Track. As one of the largest hospitals in the country, Tampa General Hospital is first in Florida to partner with GE Healthcare and open a clinical command center that uses artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to improve and better coordinate patient care at a lower cost. For more information, go to www.tgh.org.
ABOUT USF HEALTH
USF Health's mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the Taneja College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and USF Health’s multispecialty physicians group. The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News & World Report’s national university rankings than USF. For more information, visit health.usf.edu.