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Kochi Hospital Conducts Asia’s First Double Above-The-Elbow Hand Transplant

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| September 30 , 2017 , 15:43 IST

The Amrita Hospital of Kochi which was the first medical institution in India to perform a hand transplant in 2015 has furthered its legacy. Now, it has become the first hospital in all of Asia to successfully transplant both arms from the hand to above the elbow, a feat accomplished only 9 times in the world.

The recipient was a 19-year-old chemical engineering student Shreya Siddanagowda who lost both her arms above the elbow when they were crushed when a bus she was travelling in overturned. Losing her arms at such a young age was devastating for the girl.

“My whole world collapsed and I couldn’t believe what had happened," Shreya said to media.

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Finding out that hand transplants were being conducted in India gave her hope.

"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.

Although she was using prosthetic hands, she did not like them as they did not enable her to do her daily chores.

In August, the wait for a donor ended, as the family of a 20-year-old who was declared brain dead in a motorcycle accident agreed to donate his hands along with other organs.

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A surgical team of 20 surgeons and 16 anaesthetists spent 13 hours to transplant the donor arms onto Shreya.  

“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 doctors revealed the arm transplant news to media after the recipient's body accepted the new arms, as with all transplantations risk of rejection of the new organ is always present.

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“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,” Dr. Iyer said.

Even though Shreya's body has accepted the new arms, it will be a long journey filled with intensive physiotherapy to be able to use the new 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.