CHIETI. IS Leonardo Mastropasqua the new president of the Italian Cornea Transplant Society (Sitrac). A milestone for Abruzzo, a region at the forefront of this type of intervention thanks to the presence of the National High Technology Center in Ophthalmology directed by Mastropasqua himself. Even during the emergency dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the eye clinic of the “Santissima Annunziata” Polyclinic in Chieti was among the few national centers of excellence to carry out this activity, thanks to the measures put in place to operate in the best possible way. in the interest of patients.
For the first time in the history of this branch of medicine, the presidency of Sitrac, a point of reference for cornea transplant surgeons, has been entrusted to Abruzzo. The Company organizes international congresses that attract the major surgeons and experts in corneal pathologies and surgical techniques, curates scientific publications that collect the most advanced knowledge in the sector and coordinates the eye banks of the individual regions. A fundamental activity that coordinates with that of the National Transplant Center, of which Sitrac is an integral part for what concerns the tissues of the eye.
“The presidency of Sitrac”, comments Mastropasqua, “represents a significant milestone not only for the Center which is a national reference for cornea transplants, but also for Abruzzo, the University of Annunzio and the health authority” .
LEADER IN TRANSPLANTS
In the Theatine Center, cornea and tissue transplants have been performed for ocular surface diseases in the Abruzzo region for over twenty years. Patients suffering from corneal diseases are also referred here from the rest of Italy. The first “robotic” transplant on the national territory was performed in Chieti in 2006, and since then the technological and clinical development has revolutionized this field of surgery. The experience gained with the use of the femtosecond laser has allowed Professor Mastropasqua and Dr. Mario Nubile, manager of the Cornea Center, to devise and implement an innovative minimally invasive transplantation technique called “Slak”. Precisely for this reason, in 2017, Mastropasqua received the most prestigious scientific recognition from the American academy of ophthalmology. The main field of application of this technique is in the treatment of some rare diseases, defined as such by the National Health System because they lack standardized care, but in reality frequent and disabling even in the young population, such as keratoconus and corneal dystrophies. And precisely in the Network of rare corneal diseases, the Chieti Center represents the reference structure for accesses, number of patients and skills of the entire region. «Here», explains Mastropasqua, «cornea transplantation takes place through robotic procedures assisted by the femtosecond laser, an instrument of exceptional precision and delicacy with which ultra-precise cuts can be made, not reproducible by the human hand. The laser acts as a light scalpel that dissects the cornea, thus replacing the need to use mechanical blades or cutting edges used in traditional surgery. This allows a respect for fabrics that was unthinkable even just a few years ago ».
The fact that confirms the success of this type of surgery is that, in the Abruzzo center, despite the slowdown in activities due to the pandemic emergency, over 50 cornea transplants have been carried out in the last year.
WHAT ARE TRANSPLANTS
Cornea transplant surgery is complex because it involves the synergy between corneal donation and eye banks on the one hand, and the operation of specialized surgical structures on the other. The cornea is a natural lens that allows us to see thanks to its curvature and its transparency. When it irreversibly loses transparency and regular shape, it no longer allows a useful vision.
«The operation consists in replacing the diseased cornea or a part of it with that coming from a donor», explains Mastropasqua, «in the recent past, the full thickness tissue was replaced. Today, however, thanks to the Slak technique, we can decide to replace only the diseased tissue part. This allows to reduce surgical aggression and rejection risks, achieve better vision quality, accelerate recovery and increase the chance of long-term transplant success. Robotic surgery », the professor continues,« presupposes a careful preoperative evaluation carried out with the latest generation diagnostic tools, of which our Center is a pioneer ».
The minimally invasive lamellar transplantation technique devised by the professor is particularly indicated for the treatment of keratoconus, the first indication for cornea transplantation. The Slak surgical procedure allows to regularize the curvature of the diseased cornea and to increase the thickness of the tissue that thins as a result of the pathology. Among the advantages linked to this type of surgery there is also the possibility of carrying out the operation under topical anesthesia (with only anesthetic eye drops) without the need for hospitalization. “Robotic technology is a strength of the activity of the Ophthalmology Clinic”, concludes Mastropasqua, “enriches Abruzzo with medical and surgical excellence that attracts patients from all over Italy and provides the most advanced treatments in step with scientific progress in the field of the most current corneal surgery. I can proudly say that Abruzzo, with our University and our Local Health Authority, is on the right path to reach further goals ».
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