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Successful Double Arm Transplant At Johns Hopkins

6:25 PM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA) -- A groundbreaking procedure to transplant arms from donors to those who lost their limbs has reached new heights.

26-year old Brendan Marrocco served in the army during operations in Iraq, where in 2009 he lost all of his limbs in a roadside bomb attack.

Last month, a surgical team at Johns Hopkins gave Marrocco a bilateral arm transplant with a new treatment to prevent the body's rejection of the new limbs.  They infused the deceased donor's bone marrow cells into Marrocco's body.  The Department of Defense is sponsoring a study of this new anti-rejection technique.

Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee of Johns Hopkins Medicine is the head of the team that performed the transplant.

During the 13 hour surgery, doctors connected bones, blood vessels, muscles, skin and nerves on two arms from a deceased donor. 

Dr. Gerald Brandacher who is part of the transplant team at Johns Hopkins Medicine says, "We are now able to not only be able to perform these types of transplants routinely with conventional immunosuppression, but we were even able based on extensive research in our basic science laboratory as well as our translational research to come up with innovative treatment protocol as to one tht we applied in Brendan where we used bone marrow cells from the donor."

Brendan Marrocco says, "Well pretty much now, I can move my (left) elbow, this was my elbow. I can rotate it a little bit."

Marrocco still cannot move his new right arm, but doctors say that improvement will come.  He will have to undergo 6 hours of hand therapy, every day for the next 2 to 3 years.  That is how long it takes nerves to regenerate.

Dr. Jaime Shores of Johns Hopkins Medicine says, "I suspect that (Marrocco) will be using his hands for just about everything as soon as we let him start trying to do more and more."

He looks forward to it, so he can go back to the athletic activities that he enjoys.

Marrocco says, "Just being an athlete again, one of my goals is to hand cycle a marathon, so I would like to get back to that.  I just want to get the most out of these arms."

Brendan's mother, Michelle Marrocco is very optimistic about he future.  Brendan can now use his right arm to text, do his hair, and scratch his face.

Michelle Marrocco says, "Now he will be independent, and when he gets home he will be the Brendan that we were all looking for."