Double Arm Transplant Surgery Gets Man A Teen's Limb
The 16-hour operation was carried out last Friday on a farm worker who lost both arms in an accident. The 54-year-old man was given the arms of a teenage boy who is believed to have died in a road crash.
Plastic surgeon Professor Edgar Biemer and his colleague Christof Hoehnke led a surgical team of 30 to perform the operation at a clinic in Munich.
The patient, who lost his arms in a threshing machine six years ago, is said to be recovering well from the surgery. Doctors said he regained consciousness on Sunday and smiled at his wife.
He is expected to remain in hospital for five weeks of intensive therapy.
Doctors warned it was too early to say whether the transplant would succeed.
Professor Biemer, 65, said: ‘The forces of rejection are stronger with limbs than with any other transplants because the skin is the largest immune barrier for the body. It instinctively rejects skin it doesn’t recognise.
‘New medicines have been developed to stop this rejection and the patient in this case will be taking this medicine all his life.’
He said it was difficult to forecast the psychological effect on the man of having the arms of a youth 35 years his junior.
The donor was a 19-year-old boy from Augsburg in Bavaria. Neither has been named.
One therapist at the Isar Clinic, where the patient is recovering, said: ‘At 54, he will have to come to terms with the fact that limbs he has been without for so long are back, but that they are those of a much younger person.
‘We shall have to tell him to take it easy on the weightlifting. Getting younger arms might make him feel the years have slipped away but it won’t have much effect on his physical strength.’
The medical staff were divided into five teams for the marathon operation. Two teams each removed one arm from the donor, while two others prepared the patient to receive them.
The fifth team removed veins from the donor which had to be taken as part of the transplant to allow for a better blood flow.
Dr Biemer said the surgeons then joined the bone of the donor’s upper arm to the patient’s shoulder sockets before connecting arteries and veins.
Although the nerve casings were successfully transplanted as well, new nerves have to grow. It could be two years before the patient gets feeling in his fingertips.
The world’s first hand transplant recipient, Clint Hallam, from New Zealand, poses for photographs after his surgery in 1999
The first limb transplant, carried out in Lyon, France, in September 1998, gave Australian Clint Hallam a new hand. He had lost his 16 years earlier in an accident with a circular saw.
Although the surgery was successful, Mr Hallam later said he had become ‘mentally detached’ from the hand and it was removed at his request in February 2001.
French surgeons gave Isabelle Dinoire, 38, a partial face transplant two and a half years ago after she was savaged by a dog.
And five years ago an Austrian patient had a partial arm transplant, in which new hands and lower arms were attached.
Source: Written by John Higgins - inthedays.com