Kochi hand transplant wins global endorsement

International experts have acknowledged the milestone of India's first hand transplant achieved by doctors at the Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre (AIMS) in January this year.

In a marathon 16-hour-long surgery, a 30-year-old who had lost both his hands in a train accident received the hands of a 24-year-old fellow-accident victim.

Manu, a resident of Thodupuzha in Idukki District of Kerala, had lost both his hands in a train accident a year ago and was waiting for a recipient.

Dr Subramania Iyer, who heads the plastic and reconstructive surgery department of AIMS, said credit for the transplant should equally go to the family of Binoy from Varapuzha in Ernakulam district, who agreed to donate his limbs. Binoy was brain-dead after a motorcycle accident.

Unlike re-plantation, where a dismembered limb is surgically restored, in the case of a transplant, the limb of a brain-dead person is transplanted on a recipient.

Transplant of hand and upper limb has been accepted as one of the best forms of rehabilitation in patients with loss of hands. It is superior in many respects to prosthodontic rehabilitation.

Dr Iyer said, the success of limb transplant is high, since it is on an exterior part of the body and if there is any indication of rejection, corrective medication can be done, unlike any interior organ.

Hand transplant is followed by postoperative rehabilitation by physiotherapist and occupational therapist. In about one year of such a transplant, the limb becomes 90 per cent normal, but some small muscles might not become totally functional or total blood circulation might not be normal. But with regular rehabilitation, in the course of time, the transplanted limb becomes normal like a natural limb.

AIMS has been approved by the government of Kerala and medical directorate to perform hand transplants after inspection of the facilities and ascertaining the expertise. The department is backed by a large and experienced transplant team, social workers and psychologists. (See: Kochi's AIMS docs carry out India's first hand transplant).