Less than 100 hand transplantations have been conducted around the world.
And changes in color and/ or shape have never been reported before! But…
“I don’t know how the transformation occurred,” said 21-year-old Shreya, who underwent Asia’s first inter-gender hand transplant, “But it feels like my own hands now. The skin colour was very dark after the transplant, not that it was ever my concern, but now it matches my tone.“
And the surgeon Dr Mohit Sharma added: “We are hoping to publish two cases of hand transplantation in a scientific journal. We have recorded both a colour change and a shape change, but we need more evidence to understand the change in shape of the fingers and hands.“
This may be long as there is limited research in inter-gender hand transplants (female-to male or male-to-female).
How it came to a hand transplantation
In September 2016, Shreya lost both hands in a bus collision on its way to University.
After her amputation, she came to know that a student from a nearby college had been declared brain dead on the same day after a bike accident.
Although hand donations are rare, his family agreed to donate his hands and other organs to science.
Blood types were compatible. So doctors decided to operate on the same day. The hand transplantation lasted 13 hours during which a team of 20 surgeons welded the donor hand to the bones, arteries, veins, tendon and muscles, before the skin was stitched to Shreya’s upper limb.
For a year-and-a-half, she remained in Kochi to undergo intensive physiotherapy. The peripheral nerves took time to develop, and sensation grew by 1-2 mm every day. “The hand felt heavy, it was bulky initially,” she says.
Changes in shape and color
In the last 3-4 months, Shreya’s mother Suma has noticed that her daughter’s fingers have become leaner, slightly longer, like those of a woman.
“I see her hand every day. The fingers have become like a woman’s, the wrist is smaller. These are remarkable changes,” she said.
Nobody really knows why and how her new hands changed color and shape.
The surgeons that operated guess that female hormones have led to the change: “This is our first case of male-to-female hand transplant. We can only guess that female hormones have led to the change but assessing the exact cause is difficult.”
Her physiotherapist suggests the muscles have adapted to a female body: “Hormones secreted by a female body differ from that of a male. That can impact the functioning and look of hand.”
Says Dr Uday Khopkar, head of dermatology in KEM Hospital, Mumbai: “A hand transplant is rare, and such colour transformation is rarer. We cannot comment until proper research is conducted.”
Shreya lost 12 kg due to an infection last year. Could the thinner and longer look of her hands be linked to this medical condition?
And her hand transplantation seems to have been a total success. Last year, Shreya was able to write her exams on her own — with her new hands. I am now wondering if she is left or right handed… Well she is now maybe both! More weird medical news on Strange Sounds. [Indian Express]