PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A local hospital has performed the area's first bilateral hand transplant, to improve the life of a young woman.
The patient, a woman in her 20s, had lost both arms below the elbows and both feet (doctors wouldn't say why). Several weeks ago, a team of 30 medical professionals at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania spent 11½ hours in surgery to give her the chance to feed herself, hug her family, and even text her friends.
Dr. Scott Levin (below), chairman of orthopedic surgery and director of the hand transplant program at HUP, says this type of surgery is complicated -- medically and physically.
"The donor has to have the right skin type, the right age, the right gender, the right size for the hands and forearms," he said, "so that's quite different than solid organ transplant."
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Currently, the doctors say, the young woman can move her hands and arms, and undergoes hours of daily therapy.
Finger movement and feeling won't occur for at least a year, they add, and for the rest of her life the patient will require powerful anti-rejection medicine.
Reported by Lynne Adkins, KYW Newsradio 1060
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