Italian doctors performed a pioneering operation thanks to which their patient can regain the use of his hand. Surgeons transferred a fragment of the nerve from the amputated leg to the shoulder area. We will find out in a few months whether the procedure was a success, but it is already a historic undertaking.
In Turin, Italian doctors performed an operation that had never been performed before by any team of surgeons in the world. – I didn’t think it was the first operation of this type. I focused on the fact that a team of really good doctors would take care of me and maybe in the future I would be able to move my hand, says Marcello Gaviglio, a patient of the Trauma and Orthopedic Center in Turin.
On December 21, surgeons at a hospital in Turin transferred part of the man’s sciatic nerve from his amputated leg to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that connects the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. – We used the peroneal nerve, which is part of the sciatic nerve, and transferred it to the brachial plexus. The peroneal nerve is still connected to the spinal cord, so the brain can control it, explains Paolo Titolo, a surgeon at the Trauma and Orthopedic Center in Turin.
Last summer, Marcello was hit by a motorcycle that failed to stop at a red light. Doctors had to amputate part of his left leg. As a result of the accident, a 55-year-old Italian health care worker suffered serious brachial plexus injuries. A pioneering operation may help him partially recover.
– Our goal is to restore the grip function – emphasizes Titolo. – My friends, my children, my wife: everyone kept telling me that this was a chance I should take, and it was a chance not only for me, but also for other people in the future. Even though I was afraid, I knew I had to get on this train – says the patient.
The patient is undergoing rehabilitation
The 11-hour operation was performed by a team of approximately 20 microsurgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses. – The dissection was very difficult for us because during this process we had to remove all the small and sensitive branches. It takes a lot of time, the incision is very long because the nerve has to be moved to the armpit area. It’s a long way. Two teams were needed to perform this type of procedure. One dealt with the leg, the other with the brachial plexus – explains Titolo.
The patient is undergoing rehabilitation. The nerve needs to regenerate, so it will take five months for doctors to say whether the surgery was successful. – We think this is a novel operation because if everything goes well, it will mean that thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain can control other parts of the body than we originally thought. This will open up a new field in neurological research, Titolo points out.
The pioneering operation was preceded by four years of research.
Facts about the World TVN24 BiS
Main photo source: Reuters