Soldier Gets a Rare Double Arm Transplant
Brendan Marrocco was on patrol in Iraq 3 years ago when an explosion claimed all four of his limbs. He was the first Army soldier to survive a quadruple amputation. Now, he is the first soldier to receive a very rare double arm transplant at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is 26 years old.
• Logistics: The surgeons practiced four times on cadavers before the real thing. There were 4 teams of 3 surgeons each: one for each arm from donor and recipient. The deceased donor and living recipient do not need to match in gender, but in size, skin color, tissue and blood type.
• How They Did it: First, the skin is peeled back and bones are sawed at an angle to dovetail into each other when attached by metal plates- good carpentry, in essence. Next, the muscles and tendons are tagged with pieces of light blue sterile bandage that are sewn in place and labeled in permanent black marker, before being connected. The arteries and veins are painstakingly attached under a microscope, and finally the skin is sewn together.
• What was New: Brendan was given an infusion of bone marrow from vertebrae in the donor’s lower spine. This lowered the chance of rejection and cut back on the use of potentially dangerous drugs.
• Two Thumbs Up: Brendan’s nerves will grow into his new arms at a rate of an inch a month. In the one month since his landmark surgery, he can already move one arm around. Eventually, patients are expected to be able to “tie shoes, use chopsticks and put their hair in ponytails”. Brendan might consider growing his hair longer for that 🙂
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