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Soldier gets double arm transplant


March 16. 2013 11:39PM
By MARILYNN MARCHIONE AP Chief Medical Writer

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The first soldier to survive after losing all four limbs in the Iraq war has received a double arm transplant.


Brendan Marrocco had the operation on Dec. 18 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, his father said Monday. The 26-year-old Marrocco, who is from New York City, was injured by a roadside bomb in 2009.


He also received bone marrow from the same dead donor who supplied his new arms. That novel approach is aimed at helping his body accept the new limbs with minimal medication.


The military is sponsoring operations like these to help wounded troops. About 300 have lost arms or hands in the wars.


He was the first quad amputee to survive from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there have been four others since then, said Brendan Marrocco's father, Alex Marrocco. He was really excited to get new arms.


The Marroccos want to thank the donor's family for making a selfless decision ... making a difference in Brendan's life, the father said.


Surgeons plan to discuss the transplant at a news conference with the patient today.


The 13-hour operation was led by Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, plastic-surgery chief at Johns Hopkins, and is the seventh double hand or double arm transplant done in the United States. Lee led three of those earlier operations when he previously worked at the University of Pittsburgh, including the only above-elbow transplant that had been done at the time, in 2010.


Marrocco's was the most complicated one so far, Lee said in an interview Monday. It will take more than a year to know how fully Marrocco will be able to use the new arms, Lee said.


The maximum speed is an inch a month for nerve regeneration, he explained.


While at Pittsburgh, Lee pioneered the novel immune suppression approach used for Marrocco. The surgeon led hand-transplant operations on five patients, giving them marrow from their donors in addition to the new limbs. All five recipients have done well, and four have been able to take just one anti-rejection drug instead of combination treatments most transplant patients receive.




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