Jith Kumar Saji, 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. Both his hands had to be amputated after he fell on live high-tension electric wire. But he was handed back his arms on May 24, when he underwent India's first forearm transplant at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kochi.
‘First ever successful forearm transplant performed in Kochi, gives fresh hope to 21 year old.’
Saji's donor was Raison Sunny, 24, who was declared brain dead after a scooter accident in Angamaly, 30 kilometres away from Kochi.
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 entire surgery on Saji, including the retrieval and transplantation, took 14 hours and was done for free.
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," Dr. 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.
After the surgery, Jith spent three weeks in the transplant ICU, and is fit to be discharged. He has been undergoing physiotherapy, and is currently able to use both his elbows. Jith will have to undergo intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises for at least two years for his hands to function normally. He will have to take life-long immunosuppressants to prevent rejection. Since the patient belongs to an economically backward family, the cost of the surgery was partially met with financial aid extended by individual benefactors and philanthropists from across the State.
Three successful hand transplants have been done in India, Saji's case included, all at AIMS. All the three transplants have been bilateral or double, which means both hands were transplanted in a single surgery.
India's first hand transplant recipient was Manu, then 29, who got new hands on January 12, 2015. The second recipient was Captain Abdul Rahim, who worked with Afghanistan's Border Security Force and had lost both arms while defusing a bomb near Kabul.
The three surgeries have put India among a handful of countries including the France, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Iran and China that have successfully done hand transplants.