In a tragic turn of events, the first man to undergo a two-leg transplant has both his limbs amputated again. The patient was forced to stop taking his anti-rejection drugs after contracting an unrelated illness.
According to the Hospital Le Fe, in Valencia, Spain, treatment of a new illness was more important than saving the patient’s transplanted legs. The patient who had two legs transplanted at the Hospital La Fe in 2011, had the limbs amputated about a year and a half after the milestone procedure.
Apparently, the immunosuppressant drugs he was taking to prevent his body rejecting the transplant were complicating the treatment of the illness.
“In these cases the protocol is that, if the transplanted organ is not a vital organ, it should be removed from the patient so as to allow treatment of the illness that is more serious and urgent,” the hospital said.
The Spaniard was in his 20’s when he underwent the transplant, lost both his limbs in a traffic accident, and faced life in a wheelchair after attempts to fit him with prosthetic limbs failed.
The Valencia surgical team led by Pedro Cavadas, included fifty surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and other staff at the hospital worked through a 10-hour complex operation to give the patient the legs of another person.
The bones were attached first, followed by tendons, arteries and nerves. The patient who has not been identified, faced months or even years of intense rehab and physiotherapy and was obliged to take powerful immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life.
His recovery, before being struck by the unrelated illness was going “very well”. About eight months after the transplant, Cavadas said the patient was moving his legs and was able to stand in the swimming pool.
Spanish transplant program
In 2008, Pedro Cavadas carried out the first double arm transplant in Spain and the second in the world. He also performed Spain’s first face transplant in 2009 and the first anywhere in the world to include a tongue and jaw. In addition, he also has several arm transplants to his name.
“The Spanish transplant programme is a model because of the altruism and solidarity shown by donors,” the Hospital La Fe said.