News Item

Posted: 03.01.2013

Hand transplant is a national first for Leeds

A surgical team at Leeds General Infirmary led by Professor Simon Kay has carried out the UK’s first hand transplant operation.

The complex 8-hour operation was undertaken on 27 December 2012, after a donor limb became available and tissue matching had been completed.  The recipient is a 51-year-old male, Mark Cahill, from Halifax, who previously had a non-functioning right hand.

In a new development internationally, the recipient’s hand was removed at the same operation as the donor hand was transplanted. This allowed very accurate restoration of nerve structures and is believed to be the first time this approach has been used.

The techniques used in transplantation called upon the experience of the team at Leeds General Infirmary, who have some of the world’s greatest expertise in microvascular surgery.

Professor Simon Kay, Consultant Plastic Surgeon (pictured),  said: “This operation is the culmination of a great deal of planning and preparation over the last two years by a team including plastic surgery, transplant medicine and surgery, immunology, psychology, rehabilitation medicine,  pharmacy and many other disciplines.

“The team was on standby from the end of November awaiting a suitable donor limb, and the call came just after Christmas.  It was extremely challenging to be the first team in the UK to carry out such a procedure. Any organ donation brings something positive from tragedy and I would like to acknowledge the tremendous gift the family of the donor have made at such a distressing time.

 “It is still early days but indications are good and the patient is making good progress.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals announced in late 2011 that it was starting to look for potential candidates for hand/arm transplant and since then the team at Leeds General Infirmary has been going through the painstaking process of putting protocols in place and assessing potential recipients from across the country.

This involves careful checking of an individual’s health and the potential benefits to their quality of life, plus psychological assessment to ensure potential recipients have carefully considered the implications of the procedure.

The team has been working closely with NHS Blood and Transplant in the build up to the operation.

Hand transplantation is an emerging and rapidly developing field that was pioneered in Lyon France, and in the USA, in 1998 and 1999.  There is a close relationship between Professor Kay and colleagues at Lyon, where a number of successful transplants have now taken place.

 Notes to Editors

Currently around 10,000 people need a transplant in the UK and three people die waiting every day. To add your name to the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR) please call 0300 123 2323, text JOIN 84880 or visit

Joining the ODR makes a central record of your wish to donate and you can select all or individual organs.

Joining the ODR does not mean your limb(s) will be automatically donated – consent for this type of donation takes place in hospital with the next of kin after someone has died.

  • Professor Simon Kay is past President of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS).