First Hand Transplant Operation Performed At Leeds Hospital

A 51-year-old man has become the first person in the UK to have a hand transplant.

Doctors at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) said Mark Cahill underwent the complex eight-hour operation on 27 December after a donor hand became available.

Mark Cahill said he can't believe the hand once belonged to someone else. He told the BBC: "As I look at it and move it, it just feels like my hand."

The former pub landlord can already move his fingers, despite only having the operation a week ago.

Mark Cahill (right) is the first person in the Uk to have had a hand transplant

Mr Cahill said he was looking forward to getting back to work and holding his grandson's hand. He told ITV's Daybreak: "Long term I won't have 100% use of it, but obviously I'm going to have a lot more use than I had with the existing hand.

"Hopefully I will be able to get back to work for a start, that's a major difference.

"For a start I might be able to cut my food up, button my shirts, fasten a pair of shoelaces, and mainly I'll be able to hold my grandson's hand."

They said a new technique was used which involved Mr Cahill, from Greetland, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, having his non-functioning right hand removed during the same operation as the donor hand was transplanted.

This procedure allowed very accurate restoration of nerve structures and is believed to be the first time this approach has been used, surgeons said.

Consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay, who led the surgical team, said: "This operation is the culmination of a great deal of planning and preparation over the last two years by a team including plastic surgery, transplant medicine and surgery, immunology, psychology, rehabilitation medicine, pharmacy and many other disciplines.

"The team was on standby from the end of November awaiting a suitable donor limb, and the call came just after Christmas.

"It was extremely challenging to be the first team in the UK to carry out such a procedure.

"Any organ donation brings something positive from tragedy and I would like to acknowledge the tremendous gift the family of the donor have made at such a distressing time.

"It is still early days but indications are good and the patient is making good progress."

The hospital said Mr Cahill lost the use of his right hand due to severe gout.

Surgeons at LGI had been on standby from November

Leeds Teaching Hospitals announced in late 2011 that it was starting to look for potential candidates for hand or arm transplants.

A spokesman said that since then the LGI team has been preparing and assessing potential recipients from across the country.

Potential patients have gone through a series of health checks and psychological assessment to ensure they have carefully considered the implications of the procedure.

Mr Cahill was part of the programme and was one of two potential candidates when a donated limb became available. He was selected because he was the best tissue match.

The team has been working closely with the NHS Blood and Transplant authority and also colleagues in Lyon, France, where hand transplants were pioneered in 1998.

The first-ever recipient in France was New Zealander Clint Hallam, who later had his new hand removed.

Hallam lost his original hand in a circular saw accident in prison in 1984.

He eventually decided he could not live with his new hand, which was taken from a motorcyclist who died in an accident. He said it felt like a dead man's hand.

It was removed two years later in London.

Doctors indicated Hallam had not stuck to the correct drugs and exercise regime.

His experience cast doubt on the whole procedure although surgeons have pointed out that a number of hand transplants have been successfully completed in the US as well as in France.

A spokeswoman for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said it was aware that a limb transplant had taken place.

She said: "Our thoughts are with the family of the donor at this time. Without their agreement for donation, this operation would not have taken place. We also send our best wishes to the recipient for a healthy recovery.

"There are currently 10,000 people waiting for a transplant in the UK. NHSBT urges everyone to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and to tell their families of their wishes."