29 Jul 2015

Cool new hands’: boy gets first ever double hand transplant

Eight-year-old Zion Harvey lost both his hands when he was two and is the first child to receive the pioneering operation.

Surgeons at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have performed the first ever double hand transplant on a child, having successfully transplanted two donor hands and and forearms.

Eight-year-old Zion Harvey lost both his hands and feet when he contracted a serious infection at the age of two. When asked if he felt different following the operation he said: “I’m the same person that I used to be, but with cool new hands.”

Doctors at the hospital hailed the surgery as a breakthrough and said that it promised to open the door to an expanded use of transplant surgery for children.

A ‘huge step forward’

Lead surgeon Dr Scott Levin said “it’s a huge step forward in the movement of reconstructive surgery and now what we call restorative surgery.”

A team of forty medical practitioners were involved, with four separate teams working during the surgery itself. Dr Levin explains the teams “had to find all the structures, put pre-made tags on them for every single structure that we’d have to repair and they would have to sew those on to the nerves, blood vessels, tendons etc.”

Though the operation is considered a success, doctors caution that Zion still needs extensive physiotherapy and will take immuno-suppressant medication for life to stop his body from rejecting his new hands.