World’s first double hand transplant systemic sclerosis patient set to return to work

World's first successful double hand transplant scleroderma patient set to return to work

World's first successful double hand transplant scleroderma patient set to return to work Image pexels-vidal-balielo-jr-3376784

UK doctors have performed the world’s first double hand transplant on a patient suffering from systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that causes tightening of the skin.

Publicised on Friday May 27, the transplant was performed five months ago in a 12-hour operation at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, roof tiler Steven Gallagher, 48, from Ayrshire in southwest Scotland, is now pain free.

Whilst hand transplants are complex, they are becoming more commonplace. This operation was however the first to deal with a patient suffering from systemic sclerosis which causes hardening and tightening of the skin.

The condition is according to the NHS: “Caused by the immune system attacking the connective tissue under the skin and around internal organs and blood vessels. This causes scarring and thickening of the tissue in these areas.

“In systemic sclerosis, internal organs can be affected as well as the skin. This type mostly affects women and usually develops between 30 and 50 years of age.”

Gallagher had suffered from the disease for 13 years, but now five months later he is looking to return to work. Thanks to regular physiotherapy and monitoring, his condition has improved to the point where he has almost normal use of his hands.

The trust’s Professor Simon Kay at Leeds General Infirmary told Euronews: “The surgery is very complex and very long. But we have done quite a lot of these now. It is a well-orchestrated operation involving a very large team. I lead the team but it is a team of experts. They work very well together.”

He added: “I think you can appreciate the complexity, beginning with an operation on each hand, and an operation on each of the donor’s hands, which means four separate surgical teams.”

With the first double hand transplant on a systemic sclerosis patient having been succcessful, Professor Kay says the doctors will able to treat more patients knowing the likely outcome.

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Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at