Doctors save severed hand by attaching it to leg

Xie Wei's hand grafted to his ankle in a hospital in Changsha, central China. Doctors kept the hand alive by stitching it to his left ankle and 'borrowing' blood supply from leg arteries. Pic: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Doctors in China kept a man’s severed hand alive for a month by attaching it to his leg, before restoring it to its usual position.

The 25-year-old, identified by his nickname Xiao Wei, had his right hand sawn off by a drilling machine at work last month in Changde, in the central province of Hunan, the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald said.

The damage was too severe to re-attach the hand immediately, so surgeons in the provincial capital Changsha grafted it onto his lower leg, just above his Achilles tendon, to keep it alive while the healing process began.

Severed limbs can be saved if their blood supply is restored within several hours of their amputation.

Earlier this month, doctors removed the hand and successfully reattached it to Xiao Wei’s arm in a nine-hour operation, said the newspaper.

He will have to go through several further operations and rehabilitation therapy to restore the limb’s function, it added.

“It’s just like building a house,” the paper quoted Tang Juyu, Xiao Wei’s primary doctor, as saying. “Currently the main body is established. There will have to be interior decorations in the future.”

Initially, doctors feared they would be unable to save his limb.

Xiao Wei said: “I was just shocked and frozen to the spot, until colleagues unplugged the machine and retrieved my hand and took me to the hospital.”

Previously, surgeons at a hospital in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China, found a way to grow a new nose on the forehead of a 22-year-old after a traffic accident damaged his nose and led to an infection.

The man had neglected to seek treatment following the accident in August last year. This led to an infection that corroded the cartilage of his nose, leaving surgeons no option but to find a way to transplant a new one.

Doctors “grew” a new nose on the man by taking cartilage from his ribs to mould the nose into shape. According to local media, the new nose looks good and doctors plan on completing the transplant surgery soon.

Also, a British man who lost his nose to cancer had a new one grown on his forearm. Experts from University College of London made the nose with stem cells and a glass mould. It was grown on the man’s arm for three months before being transplanted onto his face.


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