Here's what you need to know about the UK's first double hand transplant


Chris King is the first UK recipient of a double hand transplant - but what exactly is the procedure?

Around 80 hand transplants have been performed worldwide, offering patients the chance to touch and feel again.

After successful operations, with time and expert aftercare, the donor hands will move with strength and dexterity, feel warm to the touch and even heal itself when injured.

Double hand transplant patient Chris King (Danny Lawson/PA)

But the operation is a long and complex one.

During the six to 12-hour procedure, teams of surgeons work to remove the donor hand while separate teams work on the recipient.

During the attachment, bones are joined with titanium plates and screws. Just as with a typical broken bone, they should eventually heal together, but the plates remain in place to ensure stability.

Plastic Surgeon Professor Simon Kay (position not known) and his team as they perform the UK's first double hand transplant at Leeds General Infirmary, on patient Christ King, from Doncaster.

Surgeons then connect key tendons and muscles, before blood vessels are connected. Once blood is circulating, remaining nerves, tendons and muscles are attached.

The feeling in the hand should then come back.

A single hand transplant costs around £50,000 with a further £2,000 to £3,000 a year in rehabilitation and immunosuppressant drug costs.

Eligible patients have typically lost one or both hands, mostly below the elbow. In assessing eligibility, the main focus is on matching blood group, skin tone and hand size.

A before picture of the right hand of the UK's first double hand transplant patient Chris King, from Doncaster.

The option to choose to donate limbs is not recorded on the NHS Organ Donation Register, so specific permission is sought from the families of potential donors after their death.

Due to the special matching required of donor limbs and the complex nature of the procedure, patients will also be carefully screened for psychological and physical suitability.

The majority of patients, around 70%, return to work and 75% report an increased quality of life.

Consultant Plastic Surgeon Professor Simon Kay who performed the UK's first double hand transplant at Leeds General Infirmary, on patient Chris King (right), from Doncaster.

Leeds General Infirmary, where Chris King became the UK's first double hand transplant patient, is believed to be the first in the world to perform the operations with public funding.

The centre is headed by consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay, who successfully performed the UK's first single hand transplant on Mark Cahill in 2012.

Mark, a former pub landlord from Greetland, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, has since regained almost complete use of his transplanted hand and can pick up his grandchildren, tie his shoelaces and drive a car.

He reportedly used the hand to save his wife's life earlier this year after she suffered a heart attack.