March 24, 2011

First Australian Hand Transplant Operation Successful

Peter Walsh, 65, who lost his hands and feet to a bacterial infection four years ago, has become Australia's first recipient of a hand transplant, AFP reports. The successful nine-hour operation was performed in Sydney this week.

Mr. Walsh's wife, Marg Walsh, told reporters, "He's just so grateful to the donor family for this generous gift and we are thinking of that as well."

The medical director of hand transplant program at UCLA, Dr. Sue McDiarmid explained to ABC News in Australia that some amazing results have been seen from such transplants done so far.

"It is truly amazing to see the function that returns in these transplanted hands over the course of the months and even the years," she said. "Our patients do need to put some time in with the rehab, but I have seen patients restored to full use of their hands doing the things that you and I take for granted."

Professor Wayne Morrison, who led the 20-person surgical team, claims, "Peter was wriggling his fingers today. "We actually don't want him to be moving his hand yet, but it's demonstrating everything is connected. Everything is on track," ABC News is reporting. Morrison went on to explain that the patient will have undergo extensive physiotherapy.

A bacterial infection led to the amputation of his left leg, part of his right foot and both hands along with nearly taking his life. "I'm not one for holding hands but it would mean so much to have hands again," said Walsh, a grandfather of 16. "I don't know who gave it to me, but I am so thankful for what they have done."

Whether his body accepts the new hand will not be known for days, or even weeks.

Over 60  hand transplants have been successfully performed around the world since New Zealander Clint Hallam became the first successful recipient in 1998.