Doctors on Tuesday announced that a double hand transplant, performed in July 2015, has been a success.
The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health reported that 10-year old Zion Harvey, who underwent surgery to replace both his hands after having them amputated at age 2 after contracting a sepsis infection, is now able to write, feed and dress himself.
“Eighteen months after the surgery, the child is more independent and able to complete day-to-day activities,” a doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where the operation took place, Sandra Amaral, confirmed.
“He continues to improve as he undergoes daily therapy to increase his hand function, and psychosocial support to help deal with the ongoing demands of his surgery,” she said.
Zion’s feet were also amputated at the time when his hands were. He has also had to have a kidney transplant.
Prior to the transplant, Zion had “limited ability to dress, feed and wash himself through adapted processes, using his residual limbs or specialist equipment,” the report stated.
The donor hands – from a deceased child – became available in July 2015.
Zion was able to move his fingers, using ligaments from residual limbs, within days of the surgery. Within eight months of the surgery, he was able to use scissors and draws with crayons.
A year after the operation, he was able to swing a baseball bat using both hands, and he threw the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game in August last year.
Doctors have reviewed the successes and challenges faced by the Harvey family and noted the large team of specialists which supported them. Zion has also been assisted by a psychologist and social worker during the recovery process to help him cope with his new hands.
Researchers, while welcoming the success of Zion Harvey’s operation, have cautioned that more study is necessary before hand transplants in children can become more widespread.
“The world’s first double hand transplant in a child has been successful under carefully considered circumstances,” the report noted.
The world’s first-hand transplant in an adult was completed in 1998.