A 21-year old man has successfully undergone elbow-level double hand transplant at a private hospital in Kochi, claimed to be the first of its kind in the country. Jith Kumar Saji, the son of a mason hailing from a small village in Kannur, lost both his hands from the elbow in 2013 due to electrical burns. He underwent the surgery at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS). Both his hands had to be amputated after he fell on live high-tension electric wire in August 2013. Hands harvested from 24-year-old Raison Sunny, declared brain dead after a road accident, were brought to AIMS in a highly co-ordinated effort and transplanted in Jith, who is now fit to be discharged after more than a month-long treatment, hospital authorities said. AIMS Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery wing HOD Subramania Iyer led a team of 25 surgeons and a 12-member anesthetic team in the 14-hour long marathon surgery. This was the first time such elbow-level hand transplant had been made in the country, said authorities of the hospital, claiming that AIMS was also the only facility in the country with the capability to conduct hand transplants. “This surgery was technically much more complicated than the previous two hand transplants at Amrita Hospital. For hand transplants above the wrist, the tendons are still connected to each other. But in an elbow-level transplant, these connections have to be made to the muscle mass,” Mr Iyer said. Identification, tagging and connecting the nerves, tendons and arteries were very challenging and “that is why forearm transplants have been attempted only a few times in the world,” he said. Doctors said Jith spent three weeks in the transplant ICU after the surgery and was now fit to be discharged. “He has been undergoing physiotherapy and can use both his elbows. He is even able to eat with the support of special splints.” Jith would need to undergo intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises for at least the next two years for his hand function to return fully. “In addition, he will have to take life-long immunosuppressant medications to prevent rejection of the transplanted hands,” they said. Since Jith is from an economically disadvantaged background, several individual benefactors and philanthropists from Kerala pooled in resources to fund his surgery.
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