Woman to show off transplanted hand

 The Northern California woman received the donor limb in a marathon surgery last month at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Doctors who will introduce the woman at a news conference said she was living with a prosthetic and wanted a hand transplant to better care for her daughter. During the 14-and-half-hour operation, a team of nearly 20 surgeons, nurses and support staff grafted a hand from a deceased donor onto the patient and intricately connected bones, blood vessels, nerves and tendons.

The transplant was the 13th such case in the US and the first for the hospital.
The patient was able to move her fingers soon after the surgery. She faces several months of rehabilitation and has to take drugs for the rest of her life to prevent rejection.
Hand transplantation has come a long way since the first one was carried out in Ecuador in 1964 before the development of modern immunosuppressive therapy. The transplant failed after two weeks and the patient had to have the new hand amputated.

More than three decades later, French doctors in 1998 performed a hand transplant that lasted two years. The recipient did not take medications as ordered and his body rejected the limb. Since then, more than 40 hand transplants have been performed around the world, including several double hand transplants. The recipient of the first US hand transplant in 1999 has lived with a donor hand for a little over a decade.

“It is clear that it is achievable,” said Dr Warren Breidenbach, who performed the historic surgery.

The UCLA operation cost about $800,000, but since it was experimental, the patient did not have to pay.

Little has been revealed about the donor except that the hand matched the patient’s in terms of blood type, size and colour.

A week after the UCLA operation, doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta performed the 14th hand transplant in the country.

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