Hand transplant is a surgical procedure for persons with amputated hands. Hand transplant is a complex procedure performed only at a few medical centres worldwide. Your doctor will transplant hands and a portion of the forearms, as the case may be, collected from a dead person.
A hand transplant will help you regain the sensation and function of your hand. However, it is not guaranteed. Hand transplant can improve the quality of your life. But you should be committed to lifelong treatment. Your doctor will suggest frequent medical checkups, particular medications, and physical therapies help you heal properly.
Hand Transplant: Procedure
Not every disabled individual will be suitable for transplants. Your doctor may recommend transplantation if he/she feels you are qualified for the transplant procedure. The following factors are considered before determining your eligibility for hand transplantation:
- Your blood group.
- Your tissue type
- Your and your donor’s age
- Your and your donor’s gender
- Your hand size and the intensity of amputation
- Your skin colour
- Muscle bulk in your hand and at the site of amputation
Before the Procedure
A hand transplant surgery is a complex procedure with significant risks involved. So, you need to think about the process before going ahead with the surgery. Ask your doctor for all details about the surgery. Inquire if there is any care you can take to avoid complications. Before surgery, your doctor will order a couple of tests to analyze your eligibility for the surgery:
- Comprehensive tests, including X-rays of your hand, blood tests, and other tests, ensure you are fit to undergo surgery.
- A few hospitals and doctors will ask you to go through mental and emotional evaluation tests to ensure you are fit not just physically but also mentally for the surgery.
- Your doctor requires you to take specific tests to ensure you do not have any persisting nerve conditions.
- You should tell your doctor about habits like smoking and alcohol consumption before the surgery.
- Your doctor will assess your previous health condition to ensure you are eligible for the surgery. You should not have any prevailing health conditions, including kidney problems, diabetes, heart disease, infections, and untreatable cancers.
During the Procedure
Hand transplant surgery typically takes 18 to 24 hours as it is a complicated surgery. A team of specialized doctors will perform the surgery.
Once a donor hand is ready to be attached to the arm, your surgeon will first attach your bones with the bones of the donor hand using small metal plates. Then, the surgeons will use special stitches (sutures) to attach your blood vessels, tendons and nerves. Transplant surgeons use a special operating room microscope to place the stitches. As soon as all the parts of the donor hand and recipient’s arm have been attached, the skin is closed.
After the Surgery
You will need extreme care after the surgery as a hand transplant is a complex and major surgery.
- Your doctor will shift you to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after the surgery
- Your medical experts will monitor the functioning of your hand closely
- Your healthcare team will place you in a room with moderate temperature to ensure good blood circulation in your hands
- Your doctor will shift you to a patient room once your condition is stable
- You will have to stay in the hospital for at least 7 to 10 days after your hand transplant
- Your medical team will monitor your health condition and hand functioning closely to analyze your health and take optimal measures to quicken your progress
- After the wound heals, you will need to undergo physical therapy sessions to optimize your hand’s functioning.
Hand transplant is a complex surgical procedure .However, there is no guarantee of regaining your hand’s functionality or the extent of hand functionality you will regain. Observations made from past experiences suggest that the following functions have been possible after the transplant :
- Minimum hand movement
- Picking and moving small objects
- Picking and moving moderately heavier objects like a milk jug
- Eating with hands using a fork, knife, and spoon
- Catching small balls
- Tying shoelace
Hand Transplant: Aftercare
- Clinical visits: After your discharge, you need to frequently visit your doctor to ensure your healing progress is on a positive trajectory.
- Strengthening exercises: To optimize and promote your hand functioning, your physicist will recommend a few activities, and you have to practice them regularly without fail.
- Communicate: Communicating is the key to let your surgical team know about your discomfort. So, update them if you feel even the slightest pain.
- Immunosuppressants: Never miss your medications and immunosuppressants to avoid infections and any other complications.
- In rare cases, your immune system may reject your new hand. In such cases, your doctor suggests removing the new hand, and other possibilities will be discussed. However, immunosuppressants ensure that your new hand is not rejected and side effects and infections are avoided.
- You will experience severe pain and discomfort in the initial days. But painkillers and other medications ensure that you cope with the pain.
- It is natural to experience psychological issues after life-changing surgeries like this. With the healing of the wound, your anxiety goes down.
- Your hand does not respond instantly. It takes some time to heal and gain functionality. You may feel a little discomfort in the initial few days, but you will gradually recover with proper care and intervention.
A professional team will take care of you after the surgery to help you heal and recuperate quickly. The specialized team will give the most comprehensive care to ensure you do not feel pain or discomfort through the healing process. There are many success stories of hand transplant surgery, and the chances of failure are very low. Your doctors will follow up on your health condition to evaluate your health from time to time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How long should I wait for a hand transplant?
After your doctor declares you are eligible for transplantation, you have to wait till your doctor finds a donor for your amputated hand.
Do I have to stop any medications?
You don’t have to stop any medications, but notify your doctor about them before surgery.
Am I eligible for a hand transplant after prosthesis?
If you are satisfied with the result of your prosthesis, you don’t have to go for a hand transplant.
Should I stay at the hospital after the surgery?
Yes, your doctor will put you under observation after the surgery. Depending on your recovery rate, you may have to stay in the hospital for 15-20 days.