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India’s First Successful forearm transplant surgery in Kochi

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Kochi: Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre which is the only centre doing hand transplants in India has successfully performed the first forearm transplant.

A 21- year-old Jith Kumar Saji, who lost his arms from the elbows due to electrical burn injury when he fell on live high-tension wire in 2013 got a new pair of hands on May 24 became India’s third double-hand transplant recipient and the first one to get a forearm transplant.

It took14 hour to perform surgery on Saji. A team of 25 surgeons and 12 anaesthetists led by plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Subramania Iyer worked together to preserve as much tissue as they could and transplanted the new hand over them.

The forearm surgery was more challenging than the wrist and hand transplants because the muscles that move the hand, fingers and thumb are located in the
forearm which was badly damaged by the electrical burns in Saji’s arms.

Dr Iyer said. “In transplants done above the wrist, the tendons are still connected, but in a forearm transplant, these connections have to be made to the muscle mass. Identification, tagging and connecting the nerves, tendons and arteries is very challenging.”

Saji was discharged on Friday but will continue physiotherapy for two years to regain complete hand function and take immunosuppressant medicines for life to stop his body from rejecting his transplanted hands.

Saji’s donor was a 24 -year-old boy , Raison Sunny who was declared brai dead after a scooter accident in Angamaly.

Dr Jimmy Mathew, who was part of the team that did the surgery said. “Unlike internal organs retrieval, retrieving donor arms leads to visible amputation, which is traumatic for the family with even when the retrieved arms are replaced by prosthetics. Sunny was part of a volunteer group that took accident victims to hospitals and his family readily agreed.”

Till date three surgeries have been performed in India which put India among a handful of countries including the France, US, Germany, UK, Canada, Iran and China.

The first hand transplant was done on a 30-year-old man from Kochi in January 12, 2015. The second recipient was Captain Abdul Rahim from Afghanistan’s BSF, who had lost both his arms while defusing a bomb near Kabul.

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