What to expect
The process of performing a successful hand transplant involves much more than just performing an operation. The whole process, involves assessment, preparation, surgery, recovery and rehabilitation. It may take 2 years from the start of the process to the point where the new hand has reached full recovery.
The Assessment Process
Should you choose to consider a hand transplant, you will be invited to Leeds to meet the Hand Transplantation Team. The team will ask detailed questions about why your hand was removed, the general state of your health and why you feel a hand transplant would be of benefit to you. You will have opportunity to discuss at length the risks and benefits of the procedure as they apply in your particular case.
You will be required to undergo several specific health checks to look for undiagnosed health problems. You will also spend time with the team psychologist.
Due to the complexity of the procedure it is expected that several appointments will be required in order for you to come to a fully informed decision as to whether a transplant is right for you.
There is no rush to make a decision. This stage takes as long as it needs to take and can vary between individuals. You always have the right to decide that a hand transplant is not right for you at any stage.
Preparation for Surgery
Once you are satisfied that you understand the risks and benefits of surgery and choose to proceed, your name will be added to the transplant list. Whilst on the waiting list, you must be ready to receive a transplant at any time, day or night. At this stage, certain requirements are placed upon you. These are very simple to follow. You must, for example, always be contactable by the Hand Transplantation Team, and inform us of any changes to you health. You will be assigned a personal specialist nurse who will guide you through the process.
The transplant procedure is similar, technically to rejoining a limb that has been traumatically amputated from the body. The Hand Transplant Team surgeons perform this type of surgery with frequency. Although the procedure is long, it is safe and relatively straightforward. The movie below, prepared by the University of California in Los Angeles guides you through the process.
All surgery is performed in Leeds General Infirmary. Depending on the specifics of the case, the length of the procedure will be around 10 hours.
Following surgery, you will be expected to recover in hospital for 7 to 10 days afterwards. During this time, doctors will pay very close attention to you and your new hand.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
Intensive physio and occupational therapy will commence before you leave hospital and will continue following discharge. Cooperation with the exercise programme is essential and requires a great deal of commitment.
Regular outpatient appointments will ensure that your medication is maintained at correct levels and that you remain healthy.
Leeds General Infirmary and the Hand Transplantation Team will continue to monitor you for as long as you require.