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Surgeons give more than helping hand
By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-18 23:48

China has scored one of the world's first successful palm transplants, with the patient's new hand already starting to work.

Eighteen-year-old Li Bin, who lost four of the fingers of his left hand and most of the palm in a work accident two years ago, underwent 15 hours' surgery on Wednesday night.

Li Bin's left hand before palm transplant. [newsphoto]

Li Bin's left hand after palm transplant. [newsphoto]

Recovering in Shandong Provincial Hospital Tuesday, he is now conscious and feeling well.

It will take two more months for the young man to recover full functions in his hand, according to chief surgeon Wang Zengtao.

A team of surgeons from Shandong Provincial Hospital and Yantai Yuhuangding Hospital in the city of Yantai grafted another palm and four fingers onto his hand. After a week's clinical observation, the operation has been hailed an initial success.

Wang, also director of hand and foot surgery department of the provincial capital, said to date there have been more than 10 successful hand transplant cases worldwide since doctors in France first succeeded in 1998.

But he said all previous operations were finger, hand or arm transplants, which were easier.

"As an exposed organ, it's easier for doctors to observe changes in the transplant. Built up with skin, bones, joints, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and especially marrow, palm transplants are far more complicated."

China has already carried out four hand transplant operations, with the other three in Guangzhou South Hospital, Harbin Medical University and Guangxi Medical University.

"We hope Li will be a success. The selection was very strict before we started the operation," Wang said.

Wang said the medical team had made thorough health checks for Li and careful spiritual and mental tests, assuring that he was okay for the operation. After almost two years' preparation, the team rejected seven other hands and selected the eighth with matching blood type and tissues.

Doctors said Li would take prescribed immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life to keep the hand healthy. Li will be regularly monitored.

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