July 29, 2015 - 9:30 AM
PHILADELPHIA - An eight-year-old Baltimore boy who lost his limbs to a serious infection has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant, surgeons said Tuesday.
Zion Harvey received the hands earlier this month at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, though doctors did not publicly disclose the 11-hour operation until now.
A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then delicately reconnected arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves.
Zion, a bright and precocious child, contracted an infection years ago that resulted in the amputation of his hands and feet. It also necessitated a kidney transplant, an organ he received from his mother.
Leg prosthetics have allowed Zion to be very active, including walking, running and jumping; he attends school and has learned to use his forearms to write, eat and play video games. Physicians hope his new hands will enable many more milestones, including his wish to throw a football.
Several adults in the U.S. have received double-hand or double-arm transplants in the past few years. Hospital officials in Philadelphia believe Zion is the youngest person to undergo a double-hand transplant, which requires a lifetime of immune-suppressing drugs to ensure the body doesn't reject the new limbs.
Zion has already been taking anti-rejection drugs because of his donated kidney, making him a good candidate for the hand transplant, doctors said.
Doctors say Zion will spend several weeks in physical rehab at the hospital before returning home to Baltimore.
Details on the donor and the operation's cost were not immediately available.
News from © The Associated Press, 2015