By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Dr. Amir Oron aids a surgical team in transplanting a cadaver arm to a recipient.
Surgeons consider attaching an arm from a deceased donor the most challenging type of hand transplant surgery.
The recipient was 56-year-old Ronald Thurman, a farmer from Indiana whose arm was amputated in a combine accident nine years ago. He received his new right arm from a 22-year-old Texas man who was killed in a traffic accident and whose family donated his organs.
The arm was flown by jet from Texas to Kentucky while the two men were tissue typed and preparations were made for surgery.
Oron was part of a huge team of 42 hand surgeons from the US and other countries, headed by Dr. Joseph Kutz.
“Every operation like this is a challenge of its own,” said the Kaplan physician. “In such a case, because some of Mr. Thurman’s muscles were weakened during the accident, we had to transfer muscles originally meant for a different purpose. Before we attached the donor’s arm, the recipient underwent anti-rejection therapy based on a number of drugs.”
In the first stage, the bones are connected, followed by the arteries so the donor arm does not suffer from ischemia for longer than necessary.
Then the nerves, veins, ligaments and skin are attached.
The world’s first arm transplant was performed a few years ago at the same Kentucky center, where Oron was studying his specialty.
The farmer was the eighth patient to undergo such a transplant at Kleinert, but this was the first time an Israeli hand surgeon participated.