Karnataka man receives India’s first shoulder-level arm transplant at Amrita Hospital, Kochi
BENGALURU : Amaresh, a 25-year-old junior power man working with Gulbarga Electricity Supply Company (GESCOM) in Yadgir, Karnataka, lost both his hands in an electrical accident a few years ago. He has now got a new pair of hands in a very complex but successful hand-transplant surgery at Kochi’s Amrita Hospital that lasted 18 hours.
The transplanted hands belonged to Vinod, a 54-year-old man working in the Middle East. On a visit to his native place in Kollam district, Kerala, he met with a fatal traffic accident when his motorcycle collided with a private bus. Vinod suffered a serious head injury, and was admitted to the Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. Despite best efforts of doctors, he could not be revived and was declared brain dead on January 4, 2022. Vinod’s family readily agreed to donate his various organs, including his hands, following his death, and that is when Amaresh’s prayers for a new pair of hands were answered.
Amaresh, who is unmarried, suffered a severe injury in September 2017 due to electric shock while repairing a charged electric cable. His hands sustained multiple fractures and electric burns. He was rushed to a hospital where doctors had to amputate both his hands to save his life. While the right hand was amputated at the elbow, the left hand had to be severed right at the shoulder level. After struggling for many years with a life without hands, Amaresh approached the hand transplant team
of Amrita Hospital, Kochi. Subsequently, he got registered in the Kerala Network for Organ Sharing (KNOS) in September 2018 as an organ recipient waiting for organ transplantation. There began Amaresh’s long wait for a miracle and a suitable donor.
After a pair of hands were harvested for transplantation from Vinod, the patient Amaresh was rushed to Amrita Hospital on January 5, 2022, where Dr. Subramania Iyer and Dr. Mohit Sharma led a team of 20 surgeons and 10 anesthetists to successfully transplant both the limbs in a marathon surgery. Said Dr. Subramania Iyer, Professor & Head, Centre for Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Amrita Hospital, Kochi: “It was a very complicated operation. Shoulder-level full-arm transplants are quite rare. In fact, this is only the third such surgery in the world. The higher the level of amputation, the more challenging the hand transplant becomes. There are profound technical issues in a shoulder-level transplant, especially fixing the donated upper limb to the shoulder of the recipient. Amaresh’s surgery was successful. There was a problem with the blood supply to the upper limb, which we could solve only with two subsequent procedures. Finally, the patient was discharged three weeks after the surgery.”
Added Dr. Mohit Sharma, Professor, Centre for Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Amrita Hospital, Kochi: “The patient needs to take immunosuppression lifelong so that the new hands are not rejected by his body. It will take time for the nerves to grow and function. He also has to undergo intensive physiotherapy, including muscle stretching, for another year before he slowly starts regaining function of his transplanted hands. Amaresh has a high tension electrical burn injury with severe nerve and vessel damage. His recovery is likely to be slower and function has to be evaluated over a period of at least 2-3 years to determine the functional outcome.”
Said the patient Amaresh: “When I lost both my hands at such a young age, I couldn’t come to terms with reality. It was a devastating loss from which it was impossible to recover. My life as I knew it came crashing down. Getting a new pair of hands seems like a dream to me. God has finally answered my prayers. I eagerly look forward to the day when I will feel the first sensation in my hands and be able to move my fingers. I thank the doctors of Amrita Hospital for giving me a new lease of life and a new hope. I am very thankful to Mr.T. Shreenivasa Yadgiri, Deputy Secretary of GESCOM and Assistant Treasurer of KPTCL Employees’ Union 659 for his support and encouragement from the beginning of this journey.”
Amaresh’s surgery was funded jointly by GESCOM, Yadgir division and KPTCL Employees’ Union.
Amrita Hospital pioneered hand-transplants in India by conducting the country’s first such transplant on a 30-year-old man, Manu, in January 2015, with the surgery team led by Dr. Subramania Iyer.