Halifax man receives first hand transplant

From The Independent:


Dr Simon Kay, left, and his surgery patient Mark Cahill

A 51-year-old man has become the first person in the UK to receive a new hand in a pioneering eight-hour transplant operation.

Mark Cahill, of Halifax, underwent the long, complex procedure at Leeds General Infirmary last week after a donor hand that matched his blood type became available.

The surgical team, which was led by Professor Simon Kay, an internationally renowned microsurgeon who has reattached dozens of partially severed hands, is thought to have made history by becoming the first to remove a recipient’s non-functioning right-hand and transplanting the donor hand in the same surgery. About 60 hand transplants have been carried out successfully around the world but this procedure allowed for a more accurate restoration of nerve structures and a greater chance of success.

This is a potentially critical improvement, as the first man in the world to have a hand transplant later needed it removed. But the new feat is not without ethical concerns. The patient must take immunosuppressant drugs for life, increasing the risk of cancer and infection in the host.

The Yorkshire-based team of surgeons had been planning the procedure since December 2011.

The potential patients went through a series of health checks and psychological assessments to ensure they have carefully considered the implications of the procedure, which whittled down the candidates from six to only two, a spokesman for the hospital said. Mr Cahill, who was one of the two potential recipients chosen last year, suffered from gout from an early age, leaving one hand completely non-functioning and another with only partial movement. The spokesman said that he is already able to move his fingers.

“The team was on standby from the end of November awaiting a suitable donor limb and the call came just after Christmas,” Professor Kay said. “It is still early days but indications are good and the patient is making good progress.

“This operation is the culmination of a great deal of planning and preparation over the last two years.”

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