The outcome of the first medical review 2 months after the world’s first successful double-arm transplant was positive, says the surgical team that gave a 56-year old German farmer, Karl Merk, two new arms to replace the ones he lost in a farming accident 6 years ago. The donor was a teenager who died before having surgery.
The operation was carried out by a 40-person team. A statement from the clinic emphasized the enormity of the procedure: the surgical team stepped into new territory when they undertook the largest transplant of human limbs ever performed. Recipient and donor had different immune systems and the risk of an adverse skin and bone reaction was not insignificant.
In the first week following the operation, the main concern was wound healing and getting the patient to move around. Within a few days of the procedure, Merk was already able to leave his bed, said the statement from the clinic.
The next priority was to regenerate the nerves and stop the muscles from wasting away. Merk had to work hard to keep the muscles of the arm working, by doing hours daily gym exercises as well as undergoing electrical stimulation of all the arm muscles.
This regimen demands a lot of patience: the nerves only regenerate at the rate of 1 mm a day, so at the earliest, it will be 1.5 to 2 years before Merk will be able to move his arms in any way, the doctors told the press.
Merk hopes to be home again soon, on his farm. This could be in 4 to 6 weeks, if the good progress that has been made so far continues, said his doctors. But even after this, he will still be doing several hours a day of strenous physiotherapy.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD.
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[Source: Medical News Today]