World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

July 19, 2017
In this undated handout photo provided by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, 8-year-old Zion Harvey of Baltimore, Maryland is seen with his newly transplanted hands

The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

The report in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides the first official medical update on 10-year old Zion Harvey, who underwent to replace both hands in July 2015.

"Eighteen months after the surgery, the is more independent and able to complete day-to-day activities," said Sandra Amaral, a doctor at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where the operation took place.

"He continues to improve as he undergoes daily therapy to increase his function, and psychosocial support to help deal with the ongoing demands of his surgery."

Harvey had his hands and feet amputated at the age of two, following a sepsis infection. He also had a .

Harvey was already receiving drugs to suppress any immune reaction to his kidney, which was a key factor in his selection for the 10-plus hour surgery.

Immunosuppressive drugs must be taken continuously to prevent a patient's body from rejecting the . These drugs carry risks, including diabetes, cancer and infections.

Doctors reviewed both the successes and challenges Harvey and his family have faced, noting that a large team of specialists was hard at work supporting them through all the ups and downs.

The child has "undergone eight rejections of the hands, including serious episodes during the fourth and seventh months of his transplant," said the report.

"All of these were reversed with immunosuppression drugs without impacting the function of the child's hands."

Harvey continues to take four immunosuppression drugs and a steroid.

"While functional outcomes are positive and the boy is benefitting from his transplant, this surgery has been very demanding for this child and his family," said Amaral.

Post-surgery progress

Before the , Harvey had "limited ability to dress, feed and wash himself through adapted processes, using his residual limbs or specialist equipment," said the report.

His mother hoped he would one day be able to dress himself, brush his teeth, and cut up his own food.

Harvey, for his part, wanted to climb monkey bars and grip a baseball bat.

The donor hands became available in July 2015 from a deceased child.

Within days of the surgery, Harvey discovered he could move his fingers, using the ligaments from his residual limbs.

"Regrowth of the nerves meant that he could move the transplanted hand muscles and feel touch within around six months, when he also became able to feed himself and grasp a pen to write," said the report.

Eight months after the operation, Harvey was using scissors and drawing with crayons.

Within a year, he could swing a using both hands.

He also threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game last August.

Regular meetings with a psychologist and a social worker were part of the recovery process, aimed at helping him cope with his new hands.

Scans have shown his brain is adapting to the new hands, developing new pathways to control movement and feel sensations.

Researchers cautioned that more study is needed before hand transplants in children become widespread.

"The world's first double hand transplant in a child has been successful under carefully considered circumstances," said the report.

The first successful hand transplant in an adult was completed in 1998.

Explore further: Child with double-hand transplant throws at Camden Yards

Related Stories

Child with double-hand transplant throws at Camden Yards

August 3, 2016
A boy who underwent a double-hand transplant last summer has shown off his progress by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Camden Yards.

Boy with double-hand transplant's next goal: Play football (Update)

August 23, 2016
It's been just over a year since 9-year-old Zion Harvey received a double-hand transplant, and he said Tuesday what he really wants to do is play football.

Boy who lost limbs to infection gets double-hand transplant

July 28, 2015
Surgeons in Philadelphia have performed a double-hand transplant on a boy believed to be the youngest patient to undergo the procedure.

Man doing well after UK's first double hand transplant

July 22, 2016
The lead surgeon in the UK's first double hand transplant says he believes the patient will regain good movement and feeling in his hands.

US boy with double-hand transplant leaves hospital

August 26, 2015
An 8-year-old boy who became the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant has left the Philadelphia hospital where the procedure was done and was returning to his Maryland home.

Recommended for you

Smoking raises risk of aneurysm recurrence after endovascular treatment

August 17, 2017
In a new study, researchers report people who have experienced an aneurysm have another reason to quit smoking.

Study adds to evidence that most prescribed opioid pills go unused

August 2, 2017
In a review of half a dozen published studies in which patients self-reported use of opioids prescribed to them after surgery, researchers at Johns Hopkins report that a substantial majority of patients used only some or ...

Engineers harness the power of 3-D printing to help train surgeons, shorten surgery times

August 2, 2017
A team of engineers and pediatric orthopedic surgeons are using 3D printing to help train surgeons and shorten surgeries for the most common hip disorder found in children ages 9 to 16. In a recent study, researchers showed ...

World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

July 19, 2017
The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

Knee surgery—have we been doing it wrong?

July 18, 2017
A team of University at Buffalo medical doctors have published a study that challenges a surgical practice used for decades during arthroscopic knee surgery.

New tools help surgeons find liver tumors, not nick blood vessels

July 17, 2017
The liver is a particularly squishy, slippery organ, prone to shifting both deadly tumors and life-preserving blood vessels by inches between the time they're discovered on a CT scan and when the patient is lying on an operating ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.