A SURGEON planning the first double-hand transplant on a Scottish woman later this year says he already has more patients lined up for the ground-breaking surgery.
Professor Simon Kay last month revealed that he would conduct the surgery on Corinne Hutton after she lost her own hands through illness.
The consultant plastic surgeon has now said that three more patients from across the UK are already being prepared for hand transplant surgery.
Prof Kay and his team, based at Leeds General Infirmary, previously carried out the UK’s first single-hand transplant on patient Mark Cahill 18 months ago.
Last month it was revealed that Ms Hutton, from Renfrewshire, who lost her hands and feet last summer following a Streptococcus A infection, would receive the first double-hand transplant.
Prof Kay has been speaking to delegates at the European Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (ESPRAS) conference in Edinburgh to update them on his work and the complex processes and guidelines that had to be satisfied to carry out hand transplant surgery.
“It is much more complex than most surgeons would imagine. So that was a bit of an eye opener to them,” he told The Scotsman.
Prof Kay also updated surgeons on Mr Cahill’s progress after he became the first patient to have a non-functioning hand removed and replaced with a donor hand.
“I’ve been showing surgeons lots of videos of his current performance, which is very good indeed,” he said.
“He uses his hand very naturally and very well.”
Unlike many patients, Prof Kay said he expected Ms Hutton’s surgery to be helped by the fact she still had her wrists.
“We can expect really good function from her if everything goes well. The obstacles to good nerve repair above the wrist are far fewer than obstacles to good nerve repair beyond the wrist,” he said.
“Although nerve repair beyond the wrist is more surgically complex the results are much much better.
“I would be very optimistic that she would get very good function, and very quickly as well.”
Prof Kay, a member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), said timing of the surgery would be dependent on getting a well-matched donor, but they were hopeful it would take place later this year.
And even before that has been carried out, he said he had three more patients from across the UK currently at different stages of being screened and getting funding approved for transplant surgery.
“It has the potential to make a huge difference to their lives,” the surgeon said.
Despite the advances being made, Prof Kay said his team recognised that the majority of patients would be best served with an artificial limb.
“The two treatments don’t compete. We provide both at our clinic,” he said.
“But there is no doubt that, all other things being equal, a hand transplant is much more natural, warm-feeling and sensitive than an artificial limb.
“If a patient is suitable for a hand transplant that is a great thing to have.”
The surgeon said they now hoped to be able to carry out a series of operations to prove the worth of hand transplants on a larger scale.
“The reason we are doing this is because around the world a lot of one-off cases have been done,” Prof Kay said.
“But no unit has grasped the nettle and said we’ll do a series looking at what the results are like objectively and whether it is worthwhile.
“My own intuition is that it is very worthwhile.
“We aim to do a series within the British NHS and see how they work within our healthcare system.
“There are a lot of patients with limb loss, not all of them are suitable for transplantation but a significant proportion are.”