In a first, a Kochi Hospital performs a transplant on both arms above the elbow, becoming the first medical institution in Asia to carry out the surgery of such type. The transplant was performed on a 19-year-old girl at the Amrita Hospital, where India’s first hand transplant took place in 2015. Ever since then, this Kochi hospital has performed four hand transplants altogether. Till now, only nine upper arm transplants have been carried out in the world, according to the doctors at the Amrita Hospital.
Shreya Siddanagowda is a chemical engineering student, who lost both her arms when her hands above the elbow were mangled in a bus accident. She lost her both hands at such a young age.
“My whole world collapsed and I couldn’t believe what had happened. When my mother told me that hand transplants are now being done in India, I got great strength and hope, and my disability began to look temporary. I felt that one day, I will lead a near-normal life again,” said Shreya.
Shreya had been using prosthetic hands; meanwhile, her transplant was being prepared. But the prosthetic hands didn’t allow her to carry out her daily chores properly. She received donor hands in August when the family of a 20-year-old college student, who was declared brain dead after an accident, agreed to donate her organs. A team of 20 surgeons and 16 anaesthetics carried out the surgery, which took 13 hours to complete. Doctors broke the news to media after the recipient’s body accepted the transplanted arms.
“Upper arm transplants are much more challenging than those at the wrist or forearm level due to the complexity involved in accurately identifying and connecting various nerves, muscles, tendons and arteries,” said Dr. Subramania Iyer, head of the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Kochi hospital.
The doctor also claimed that the rehabilitation is more difficult when it is done in the upper arm. “Rehabilitation is difficult in such cases because the patient bears the weight of the transplanted hands at the upper arm. And, in this case, both the arms have been transplanted at the middle of the upper arm,” he said.
Shreya’s body has accepted the arms she received from the donor, but she has to go through the intensive physiotherapy sessions to gain the strength of her arms.
"Shreya is currently undergoing a regime for movements of her fingers, wrists and shoulders. The elbow movements are planned to be started in a couple of weeks. We expect that she will regain 85% of hand function in the next one-and-a-half years,” said Dr Mohit Sharma and Dr. Ravishankaran, her surgeons.