Man (51) undergoes first transplant of hand in UK


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

Doctors at Leeds General Infirmary said Mark Cahill underwent the complex, eight-hour procedure on December 27th 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.

“When I look at it and move it, it just feels like my hand,” the BBC reported Mr Cahill as saying. “Right now it feels really good, it’s not a lot of pain. It looks good – it looks a great match and I’m looking forward to getting it working now.”

Major planning

Consultant plastic surgeon Prof 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.”

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 infirmary team had been preparing and assessing potential recipients.

Mr Cahill was part of the programme and was one of two potential candidates when a donated limb became available. He was selected because he was the best tissue match.

The team has been working closely with NHS Blood and Transplant and also colleagues in Lyon, France, where hand transplants were pioneered in 1998.

The first recipient in France was New Zealander Clint Hallam, who later had his new hand removed. Mr Hallam lost his original hand in a circular saw accident in prison in 1984.

He decided he could not live with his new hand, which was taken from a motorcyclist who died in an accident. He said it felt like a dead man’s hand. It was removed two years later in London. Doctors indicated Mr Hallam had not stuck to the correct drugs and exercise regime. – (AP)