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Hand transplant possible in UK

THE BRITISH specialist involved in the world's first successful hand transplant, performed in France last year, said yesterday he was ready to do a similar operation in the UK.

Nadey Hakim, surgical director of the transplant unit at St Mary's Hospital, west London, said the success of the operation on Clint Hallam, an Australian, carried out by an international team of surgeons in Lyons last September, had confirmed the surgery was feasible.

Mr Hallam, 48, who lost his arm in an accident with a chainsaw 15 years ago, was given the right forearm and hand of a Frenchman who had died in a motorcycle crash. At first all went well and he was pictured holding a pint of beer.

Earlier this year, after receiving pounds 20,000 from a Sunday newspaper for his story, he travelled to North America and was out of touch with his doctors for more than a month. When he appeared on the CBS TV programme 48 Hours in New York his hand appeared swollen and he said it was deteriorating. A CBS producer, Joe Halderman, described it as "almost completely dead".

Today, however, the surgical team that carried out the transplant say in The Lancet that Mr Hallam and his new hand are doing well. Although patients who have lost hands in accidents have had them reattached, the transplant of a hand from a donor had not previously been attempted - except once, unsuccessfully, in Ecuador in 1964 - because of fears of rejection.

Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard, of the Edouard Herriot Hospital, Lyons, and colleagues attribute their success to the development of new immunosuppressant drugs.

Mr Hakim said: "I am putting together a protocol to do [the operation] in London. The only question is when."