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Doctors Transplant Hand and Forearm

September 24, 1998

LYON, France (AP) _ Doctors transplanted a hand and forearm on an accident victim overnight in France, using a new procedure the surgeons said could restore hope to thousands of people with disfiguring injuries, a hospital said today.

The hospital in the eastern city of Lyon claimed that this was the first successful hand transplant. However, such procedures have failed before when patients’ bodies rejected the limbs weeks after the surgery.

In the French operation, the right hand and forearm of an anonymous donor was attached to the arm of a 48-year-old man whose own hand was amputated in 1989 after an accident, Edouard Herriot Hospital said in a statement.

The physicians attached ``all the arteries, veins, nerves, tendons, muscles and skin after setting the two bones of the forearm,″ the statement said.

The hospital was confident the surgery would be successful this time because of advances in anti-rejection drugs, microsurgery and transplant techniques. The procedure can be risky, however, because patients must take anti-rejection drugs that can be potentially fatal.

``It gives hope to all those who are victims of domestic or work accidents, anti-personnel mines, or have congenital deformations,″ Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard, a leader of the transplant team, told French TV.

The physicians were competing with surgeons in Louisville, Ky., who in July said they expected to perform such an operation by year’s end.

The patient was identified as an Australian businessman, France 2 television reported, adding it would take 12 to 18 months of therapy for him to regain full use of the hand.

Head of transplant surgery at the hospital, Dubernard led the team with Earl Owen, director of the Center for Microsurgery in Sydney, Australia.

Other doctors on the team included Marco Lanzetta of the University of Milan, Italy, Hari Kapila of Sydney, and Nadey Hakim of Saint Mary’s Hospital in London.

They said such an operation could initiate a new era of transplantation, with the potential to restore hope to thousands of people with congenital defects and disfiguring injuries.

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