German Man Receives World's First Double Arm Transplant
A German man received the world's first complete double arm transplant and is adjusting well to his new arms, although it could take as long as two years before he gains functionality in his hands. The nerves are predicted to grow down the arm at a daily rate of 1mm, but even after 2 years' time Karl Merck may never have full sensation in his fingers.
Doctors spent 15 hours on July 25-26 grafting the donor arms onto the body of 54-year-old Karl Merk, who lost his own just below the shoulder in a farm accident involving a combine six years ago.
"These are my arms, and I'm not giving them away again," Merk said at a news conference at the Munich University Clinic where the operation was done.
It took five teams of medical professionals — a total of some 40 surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and other helpers — to carry out the operation. Merk said that when he first woke up, he could not believe it had been carried off successfully.
This is an incredibly successful outcome considering it's the first time two arms have been transplanted at once.
The operation came about five years after the first arm transplant – one of many firsts in the transplant world in recent years. A decade ago doctors performed the first hand transplant, while a woman in France received most of a new face three years ago after being mauled by a dog. Prof Machens believes a full leg transplant is also possible, although how successful it would be is not clear.
There has also been a full face transplant, a penis transplant which was unfortunately rejected (not by the man's body; he requested it be cut off after 2 weeks due to severe psychological reactions), and also spinal and nerve transplants setting records and making the news lately.
Is a head transplant next on the list of rare accomplished procedures? Not likely - after about 10 seconds without blood flow and oxygen, the brain would lose mass quantities of cells...unless they come up with a head transplant procedure that takes just 10 seconds or less.
Psychological implications are a major roadblock when it comes to transplanting body parts - many patients reject the part after a successful operation because it feels foreign to them. Luckily in this case, Merck has a strong support system and was thoroughly counseled before the procedure, and will continue to receive psychological treatment. His family has been very supportive.
The psychological and the physical are tied up with each other, Dr Hamden said, because if a patient is feeling anxious and guilty about receiving an organ, their immune system could be weakened and recovery hampered.“Psychological input is essential, both pre-surgery and after surgery, not just for the individual but for family members as well,” he said.
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