First child hand transplant ended as a ‘success’

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On Tuesday doctors said that first hand transplant surgery was successfully finished after 18 moths on a child, which is now able to feed and dress himself. They declared this ground-breaking operation a major success.

This was reported in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health which provided updates on 10-year old Zion Harvey. He underwent this surgery to replace both hands in July 2015.

“Eighteen months after the surgery, the child is more independent and able to complete day-to-day activities,” said Sandra Amaral, a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where the operation took place.

“He continues to improve as he undergoes daily therapy to increase his hand function, and psychosocial support to help deal with the ongoing demands of his surgery.”

After Harvey suffered a sepsis infection his both hand were amputated at the age of two, beside that he also had a kidney transplanted. The key factor in his selection for the 10-plus hour hand transplant surgery was the fact that he was already receiving drugs to suppress any immune reaction to his kidney. Immunosuppressive drugs must be taken continuously to prevent a patient’s body from rejecting the transplant, but the side effects may be diabetes, cancer and infections.

After reviewing all the successes and challenges Harvey faced they noted that a big specialists team supported them through all the ups and downs.

Report said that Harvey has”undergone eight rejections of the hands, including serious episodes during the fourth and seventh months of his transplant.”

“All of these were reversed with immunosuppression drugs without impacting the function of the child’s hands.” Harvey will continue to take those immunosuppression drugs and a steroid.

“While functional outcomes are positive and the boy is benefiting from his transplant, this surgery has been very demanding for this child and his family,” said Amaral.

It’s reported that before the double hand transplant, Harvey had “limited ability to dress, feed and wash himself through adapted processes, using his residual limbs or specialist equipment.” While his mother wished for him to be able to dress himself, cut up his own food and brush his teeth, he wanted to hold a baseball bat and climb monkey bars.

Harvey, for his part, wanted to climb monkey bars and grip a baseball bat. Harvey discovered that he could move his fingers, during the days of surgery, by using his residual limbs ligaments.

“Regrowth of the nerves meant that he could move the transplanted hand muscles and feel touch within around six months, when he also became able to feed himself and grasp a pen to write,” said the report.

Harvey started using scissors and drawing with crayons within eight months. And after a year was swinging a baseball bat with both hands. Symbolically he threw the first pitch last August at a Baltimore Orioles game.

To help him cope with his new hands, recovery process included meetings with a social worker and a psychologist. According to scans, his brain is adapting by developing new pathways to control movement and sensation. Researches said that more study is required before hand transplantation in children is widespread.

Report also said “The world’s first double hand transplant in a child has been successful under carefully considered circumstances.”