The first child to receive a bilateral hand transplant is now able to write, feed, toilet and dress himself more independently at 18 months post-surgery, than he could before his surgery.

Zion Harvey had both hands and legs below the knees removed at age 2 due to sepsis. He also had a kidney transplant when he was 4. In 2015, when Zion was 8 years old, the vascularized composite allotransplantation team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia carried out the hand and forearm transplantation in a surgery that lasted 10 hours and 40 minutes.

While rejection episodes did occur throughout the year, they were reversed. At 6 months post-surgery, light touch sensitivity was reported; by 7–10 months, intrinsic hand muscle innervation was present. In addition, neuroimaging studies have shown “motor and somatosensory cortical reorganization.” 

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In their review, the medical team acknowledge that “long-term data on the functional trajectory, neurological recovery, psychological sequelae, and the potential late effect of immunosuppression are still needed to support broader implementation of pediatric vascular composite allotransplantation.”

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