In what is stated to be the first of its kind surgery in Asia, a Rajasthani farmer successfully underwent a ‘bilateral total arm transplant’, spelling the end to his 12-years of handicapped life, at the Global Hospitals here, officials said on Friday. The medical team led by the hospital’s Dr. Nilesh G. Satbhai performed the 16-hour complex surgery on Prema Ram, 33, of Ajmer, and rekindled his hopes of an independent normal life.
Ram had lost his arms when he accidentally touched a live electric pole in his field and sustained multiple electric burns and was rushed to a local hospital. However, the doctors in Ajmer and later in Jaipur advised a life-saving amputation of Ram’s both hands, which he finally underwent almost up to the shoulder level that made his life a living torture. Though the family tried to get artificial limbs and prostheses, they were not practical and Ram led an extremely disabled and dependent life since.
Though he lost his arms, he did not lose hope and his family even enquired about arms transplant options in Europe which were very expensive and a similar operation was impossible in India then.
Even as he completed his education and a B.Ed course with the handicap in the past few years, finally, he learnt of the Global Hospitals Mumbai where successful hand transplants had been performed in the recent past and came here in October 2022 to try his luck.
Dr. Satbhai said that previously a bilateral total arm transplant was done in Europe and Global Hospitals attempted the first such operation in Asia since such proximal level surgeries are extremely challenging.
The hospital had got a donor limb which matched Ram’s hand colour and size and in a race against time the surgery was performed.
“For such procedures, timing and coordination are important so that limbs are attached to the body as early as possible to enable immediate resumption of blood circulation in the large number of muscles that are transferred, and doing the same surgery on both arms adds to the technical and logistical efforts,” Dr. Satbhai explained.
Moreover, here the doctors had to prepare the two arms, attach them, connect the blood vessels, restore the blood supply perfectly so that the donor arms survive and start functioning.
Finally, Ram was successfully operated on February 9 and discharged a month later with a pair of two new arms.
The hospital CEO Dr. Vivek Talaulikar said that artificial hands provide very limited functions to the amputees and a hand transplant is the sole option to regain useful hand function to lead a normal life.
IHH Healthcare India CEO Anurag Yadav said Mumbai has witnessed eight hand transplants till date of which seven were done at the Global Hospitals, and the hospital strives to raise awareness of organs and even limb donations to help other needy people.
Now, Ram will undergo physiotherapy on both his new arms for almost two years and achieve substantial hand functions in about 18 months, said Dr. Satbhai.