A Scottish woman is to become the first person in the UK to have a double hand transplant, BBC Scotland can reveal.
Corinne Hutton had her hands and feet amputated last summer after a pneumonia infection led to blood poisoning.
She will become the second person in the UK to have a hand transplant, and the first to have both hands replaced.
Prof Simon Kay, who will lead the surgical team at Leeds General Infirmary, said: “I think the result will be exceptional.”
He added: “I think she’ll get very good function very quickly, and partly this is a tribute to the team in Glasgow who removed Corinne’s hands in a way that would facilitate transplantation later.”
Corinne, from Renfrewshire, lost her hands and feet last summer following a Streptococcus A infection, which caused pneumonia and sepsis.
Her chances of survival were put at just 5%. Her life was saved by a specialist team who travelled to Scotland from Leicester with an ECMO machine to oxygenate her blood.
“One of the consultants told me afterwards that, as they flew up, they weren’t expecting to take me,” said Corinne.
“When they arrived my condition was worse, but it was the weekend and he wasn’t answerable to anyone else, and as I was going to die anyway he had nothing to lose. So they decided to take me.”
‘No worse off’
However the infection, along with the drugs Corinne needed, starved her hands and feet of blood, effectively causing gangrene. Her feet were amputated above the ankle, but doctors were able to save her wrists.
“I thought with a transplant they’d cut away my wrists and if it failed I’d be much worse off,” she said.
“But they said the donor’s hands would attach to my wrists and therefore if it fails I’m no worse off.”
Skin from the donor’s forearms will also be retained and used to cover up extensive scarring on Corinne’s arms, in an operation which will involve four surgical teams.
“This operation from a technical point of view is much more complex,” said Prof Kay, who carried out the UK’s first hand transplant on Mark Cahill.
“In Mark’s case we had to replace three nerves, whereas in Corinne’s case it’ll be more like 10, plus all the tendons need to be repaired individually. So from a technical point of view it’s much more complex, but the concept is the same.”
Corinne has undergone psychological testing as well as tissue testing ahead of her operation. Although the transplant team will try to find a good match, her new hands will always look different.
Doctors want to make sure she is psychologically strong enough to cope with seeing a stranger’s hands at the end of her arms.
“I’ve been told that it’s psychologically tough,” said Corinne. “I like to think that I’d be grateful to whoever had given me those hands. I spoke to Mark and he agreed that was his angle on it.”
She is expected to have some sensation from her new hands straight away, but it will take 14-16 months for the transplants to settle down. She will also have to take immuno-suppressants for the rest of her life, which carry some health risks.
Surgery is expected to take place this autumn and is being funded by the Scottish government.
Corinne also hopes her story will help to raise funds for the Finding Your Feet charity which was originally set up to raise funds for her recovery but which now helps other people who have limbs amputated.
BBC Scotland Health Correspondent