Patient in first UK hand transplant

Andover Advertiser: Hand transplant patient Mark Cahill (right) with Professor Simon Kay at Leeds General Infirmary Hand transplant patient Mark Cahill (right) with Professor Simon Kay at Leeds General Infirmary

A 51-year-old man has become the first person in the UK to have a hand transplant.

Doctors at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) said Mark Cahill underwent the complex, eight hour-long procedure on December 27 when a donor hand became available.

They said a new technique was used which involved Mr Cahill, from Greetland, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, having his non-functioning right hand removed during the same operation as the donor hand was transplanted.

This procedure allowed very accurate restoration of nerve structures and is believed to be the first time this approach has been used, surgeons said.

Consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay, who led the surgical team, said: "This operation is the culmination of a great deal of planning and preparation over the last two years by a team including plastic surgery, transplant medicine and surgery, immunology, psychology, rehabilitation medicine, pharmacy and many other disciplines.

"The team was on standby from the end of November awaiting a suitable donor limb, and the call came just after Christmas. It was extremely challenging to be the first team in the UK to carry out such a procedure."

Leeds Teaching Hospitals announced in late 2011 that it was starting to look for potential candidates for hand or arm transplants. A spokesman said that since then, the LGI team had been preparing and assessing potential recipients from across the country. Potential patients have gone through a series of health checks and psychological assessment to ensure they have carefully considered the implications of the procedure.

In an interview with ITV's Daybreak, Mr Cahill said: "Eight o'clock on Boxing Day night we got a phone call saying we may have a donor. As you can imagine, the day after Christmas it was quite a shock.

"I'm getting slight movement now, my feeling has just started coming back, but everything's looking very, very good. Long term I won't have 100% use of it, but obviously I'm going to have a lot more use than I had with the existing hand."

"Hopefully I will be able to get back to work for a start, that's a major difference. For a start I might be able to cut my food up, button my shirts, fasten a pair of shoelaces, and mainly I'll be able to hold my grandson's hand," he added.

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