BALTIMORE - Doctors performed a rare mother-to-son nerve transplant Thursday, hoping to restore the use of a 19-year-old's left hand.
The six-hour surgery on Nick Anderson of Atco, N.J., went as planned, and doctors should see the first signs of success in a few months, said Eric Vohr, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"They'll have an inkling of potential success in three months, in about a year they should know if he'll regain the use of the hand," Vohr said.
Anderson's left arm was severely injured in a December 2004 accident in which he also lost his left leg below the knee. The arm no longer has an elbow joint, and two of the three main nerves have been severed.
Living donations of nerves are rare, with cadavers used more often. However, such surgeries are increasing, and raising hopes of saving limbs that previously would have been lost. In some cases, grafts can be taken from other parts of the body, but in Anderson's case, the loss of his leg meant there wasn't enough donor nerve to use, Belzberg said.
Anderson's mother, Frankie Anderson, 40, had nerve segments removed from each arm and leg on Tuesday, leaving her with permanent numb spots on small patches on each elbow and the inside of each foot, said Dr. Allan Belzberg, who performed Thursday's surgery.
Nick Anderson had a brain tumor removed two years ago, and Belzberg said there were concerns that anti-rejection drugs might affect his ability to fight off a recurrence of the tumor.
Anderson, however, will not have to take the anti-rejection drugs permanently because the donated nerves are needed only until his own cells overgrow the donated nerve cells. The anti-rejections drugs can be stopped and his body will remove the foreign, donated nerve cells.
Family members say they have been told the surgery has a 50 percent chance of success.