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It is in our nature to want to protect children and to shelter the smallest and most vulnerable among us. When a terrible car…
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Boston Doctors Offer Life-Changing Treatment for Young Accident Victims
It is in our nature to want to protect children and to shelter the smallest and most vulnerable among us. When a terrible car accident happens and a child is left with lifelong injuries, we feel utterly helpless in the face of tragedy. According to this article on articlesbase.com, there are nearly 250,000 children injured in car accidents every year. That means that 700 children per day are left with injuries, ranging from minor scrapes to broken bones to debilitating injuries such as paralysis, brain damage, and lost limbs.
Now, Boston doctors have announced a cutting edge treatment that will restore mobility to children who are the victims of accidents. Boston Children’s Hospital announced that they will be opening the world’s first pediatric hand transplant center. The first hand transplant was performed in Ecuador in 1964. However, the body’s immune system rejected the hand within two weeks; at the time, doctors did not fully understand transplant rejection and immune suppressant drugs. Testing and experiments continued until 1997, when an international symposium declared that enough research had been done to attempt the process again. In 1998, a New Zealand man received the world’s first successful hand transplant during a 13-hour operation. The following year, New Jersey resident Matthew Scott received the first hand transplant in the U.S.
In May 2008, doctors performed the only pediatric hand transplant on a one-month-old Malaysian infant with a deformed arm. This was also the first forearm and hand transplant. Because the arm was taken from her twin sister, who died at birth, there was no worry about the child’s immune system rejecting the arm. Since 1998, more than 70 successful hand transplants have taken place. For more about the history of hand transplants, click here.
Doctors now know much more about the science behind hand transplantation and what causes the body to reject a transplanted limb. Because of the rapid advances in the science, they feel confident they can now offer successful hand transplants to children. The Hand Transplant Program at Boston Children’s Hospital is headed by Dr. William Harmon who told the LA Times that children may have better luck with hand transplantation than adults. He said, “We know from experience that kids can regenerate nerves better than adults and believe that their immature immune systems can learn to adapt to a transplant successfully.”
The first transplants will be offered to children age 10 or older in otherwise good health who are missing both hands or have only one hand that functions very poorly. Children must take immune suppressant drugs leading up to and following the surgery. Every procedure performed at the hospital is being performed “under a research protocol which will evaluate the safety and efficacy of hand transplantation in children.” Doctors and scientists will collect data on the children, and they will be monitored for 10 years. Despite the somewhat experimental nature of the treatment, doctors have high hopes for the program, and according to initial reports, face transplants and other major treatments that have been made available to select adults will soon follow for children.
No matter how the medical field advances, it will always be a tragedy when children are injured in a car accident, especially when the accident was caused by recklessness, negligence, or the presence of drugs or alcohol. Still, it is comforting to know that doctors are hard at work researching treatment options for those who have been hurt. As scientific frontiers expand, there is new hope for those who have been victims of the recklessness of another party—and the hope is all the brighter for the youngest among us.