Two years ago, 22-year-old Irfaan-ul-lah lost three of his fingers and the thumb in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. Irfaan was left with only the index finger on his right hand, and routine activities like eating, drinking and writing became uphill tasks for him.
Now, after a toe-to-thumb transfer surgery, the Afghan national is hopeful of being able to lead a normal life. After a seven-hour surgery at Noida's Jaypee Hospital, a team of doctors from the Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery have transplanted his toe on to his right hand.
According to Ashish Rai, senior consultant, Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery, Jaypee Hospital, “In the first stage, the patient's hand was assessed to find out to what extent the loss of structures such as bones, joints, tendons, arteries and veins had occurred. Then, we decided to implant the second toe of his left foot to his right hand, giving it the structure of a thumb.”
Rai said his team measured the length of the patient’s thumb and after ascertaining the size and structure of the organ that was damaged, doctors cut the second toe of his left foot and implanted it in place of his lost thumb. “We had to be really careful while removing the second toe from his foot, making sure that all other structures such as joints, ligaments and the arteries are absolutely fine and functional after the surgery.”
Another member of the team, Saurabh Gupta, consultant, Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery, Jaypee Hospital said, “In the next stage, one more finger will be implanted on the same hand, so that the patient is able to perform all the tasks with his three fingers and lead a normal life. Most of us come across a number of cases where people have lost their fingers or hands in road accidents or burn injuries. There are many children who are born with no or less fingers than the normal. In rural areas too, many villagers and farmers lose their hands or fingers due to accidents by machines. Due to lack of awareness about micro-vascular surgery, these people tend to spend their entire life helplessly. With new techniques and advancements, all such surgeries are possible.”
Gupta said doctors are often asked whether it is possible to transfer someone else’s finger to a patient. “Any such procedure will require a cadaveric donor and the patient will have to take immune suppressants all his life. So, this is needed only if no donor site is available in the patient such as in the case of a hand transplant. But for fingers and thumb, toes can be easily transferred without any morbidity and minimal visible deficiency.”
A couple of months back, Jaypee Hospital had done another “successful” surgery on a four-month-old Pakistani baby, Rohaan, who had a hole in his heart and several other defects. The baby was cured, doctors from the hospital had told reporters at a presser. However, a few weeks ago, the baby's father tweeted that once back in Pakistan, the baby had died due to dehydration.