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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 11:56 GMT
Woman has double hand transplant
By Danny Wood

Alba. Picture: EPA
Alba is delighted with her new hands. Pic: EPA
A Spaniard has become the first woman in the world to receive a double hand transplant.

A team of surgeons at Hospital La Fe in Valencia carried out the pioneering operation.

After 10 hours in the operating theatre, doctors say Alba, 47, from Castellón, whose full name has not been released, is recuperating well.

The woman faced the press this week, and looked happy and content despite heavy bandages on her hands.

This is much better than any prosthesis
Pedro Cavadas

Alba said after waking up from the anaesthetic and seeing her new hands for the first time, she thought: "They look beautiful!"

The operation took place on 30 November after an appropriate donor of the same sex, race and blood group was found.

In this case it was a woman who was declared brain dead following an accident.

The donor's arms were removed from above the elbow, and the severed limbs were cooled and transported to Hospital La Fe in less than five hours.

A team of more than 10 medical professionals, including surgeons and anaesthetists, then worked to attach them to Alba's arms.

Arms matched

Both transplants were carried out simultaneously.

First, Alba's forearms had to be adjusted to match the size of the donor limbs.

Bones were fixed with metal plates and screws, and microscopic surgery was used to attached the arteries, veins and nerves.

Alba had both her original hands amputated after an explosion in a laboratory where she was studying chemistry nearly 30 years ago.

Pedro Cavadas, the lead surgeon, said she should have sensitivity and movement in her new hands within five to six months.

Mr Cavadas has told the Spanish press that the intention of the surgery was to allow Alba to lead an independent and normal life with two useful hands.

He admitted that it was difficult to know exactly how much use Alba will be able to make of her hands.

But he added: "In any case this is much better than any prosthesis."

Six double-handed transplants have been carried out on men. The first was carried out on a 33-year-old man in France in 2000.




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