TN Plans Push for Hand Transplant
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21 April 2010
Health Dept Pins Hopes On Stanley Medical College’s Hand Rehab Dept
After eye, kidney, liver and heart, the state health department is now planning to encourage transplantation of hands from cadavers, health minister MRK Panneerselvam said in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.
The state organ transplant registry has recorded 86 donations from brain dead patients in the state since October 2008, which changed the life of 479 patients.
In the past months, the registry has managed to network with several hospitals across the state and harvested 18 hearts, two lungs, 74 livers, 116 kidneys, 99 heart valves and 126 corneas. There has also been one case of skin donation.
For the hand transplant, the department is pinning its hopes on the Stanley Medical College’s hand rehabilitation department. The department, unique in the government sector, performs over 45 hand surgeries a day. “We have been reconstructing patients’ upper limbs after severe trauma. In some case, we are unable to do that because the limb is either lost or it is not viable. For them hand transplant is the only hope,” said the department head Dr R Krishnamoorthy.
He agrees that in the past 12 years, there have been only 50 attempts world wide. “That’s because many people don’t want to donate limbs as they are visible organs. Secondly, besides matching the donor and the recipient for tissue and blood group, in a hand transplant, we will have to match sex, colour, age and size of the hand,” he said.
But what gives doctors hope that this can succeed is that almost all similar surgeries done globally have been successful. “Only one case has been reported in which the doctors had to remove the reconstructed hand. That was because the patient did not want it,” he said.
Transplant surgeons at private hospitals like Global Hospitals and Apollo Hospitals have already obtained licences for transplant of other organs such as pancreas and bowels and some others are working on transplant of uterus and ovaries.
“We have constantly encouraged organ donations,” Panneerselvam said, during the debate on the demands for grants to his department. “Private hospitals have been encouraged to do more and more transplants. At the same time, government hospitals are also being supported.”
What is a hand transplant?
It’s a surgical procedure to transplant a hand from a brain–dead patient to a person who has lost his limbs due to disease or accident. It has to be transplanted within six hours of harvest. Doctors fix the bone, repair tendons, artery, nerves and vein repair for nearly 8 to 12 hours.
What is to be done after surgery?
Recipient need be on immunosuppressive drugs, as the body’s natural immune system will try to reject, or destroy, the transplanted hand.
The story of hand transplants so far
A hand transplant was performed in Ecuador in 1964, but the patient suffered from rejection after two weeks.
In September 23, 1998, a transplant was done in Lyon, France. But the patient, not happy, failed to follow the post–operation programme, and his body started rejecting the hand. The transplanted hand was removed on February 2, 2001.
The first hand transplant to achieve prolonged success was directed by University of Louisville along with Kleinert Hand Institute and Jewish Hospital in Louisville. The procedure was performed on January 24, 1999.