MEXICO CITY — A group of Mexican doctors have succeeded in transplanting upper extremities in two patients, one of which received an entire new arm.
“No transplant of this size has been achieved in the past,” said Martín Iglesias Morales, head plastic surgeon at the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Mexican Sciences and Nutrition in Tlalpan, Mexico City.
The transplants were executed in 2015, when Maximino García Baldazo, a man from Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, lost both arms in an electrical accident.
“Before, it was really obvious that I had both arms amputated, and it made people uncomfortable,” he said in a press conference. “But now, you can’t even tell. Now I can open doors without a lot of difficulty, which is an improvement. But I think I can do even better, I’m going to go ahead with the rehabilitation.”
Mexico is among the first 19 nations in achieving the transplant of an entire arm.
“It’s not an adventure, it’s a carefully researched and planned protocol. A society that donates extremities is a society that is open to change,” said Iglesias Morales.
According to the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), 3,000 people need to have arms amputated, and only between five and eight are eligible for transplants.
“There are 15 specialties that need to be covered, plus those that would be needed in the case of complications,” said Iglesias Morales.
Magda Patricia Butrón, also from the plastic surgery clinic, said that the donation of arms is only allowed from people with brain death.
“It’s a transfer of extremities that have various types of fibers, including skin, muscle, bones, joints and nerves,” she explained.
The cost of surgery is equivalent to about $10,000, which can be covered by the IMSS or the Government Employees Social Security Institute (ISSSTE).
“Long term immune suppression is also important for the surgery to be successful,” said Josefina Alberú from the Transplants Clinic.