Toe To Hand Transplant

Transplantation of a lesser toe-usually the second one-for finger replacement can be fairly successful, especially with children, a Houston plastic surgeon says in the July 29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Bromley S. Freeman of Baylor University College of Medicine has used the technique in 16 patients. He reconstructed 12 thumbs and four index fingers.

Because of the prolonged period in which the patient must be kept in a cast joining his hand to his foot, Dr. Freeman does not recommend the procedure for adults.

Three to five weeks must be spent in the hand-to-foot position, and there is a possibility of arthritic changes in the larger joints and spine of older persons.

Digital transplantation has been tried off and on since 1890. It was largely abandoned in the 1940's because of poor results.

Dr. Freeman believes, however, that it was not so much the technique that was poor as it was the fact that surgeons expected too much.

"You can't expect a toe to grow to the size of a thumb or index finger or acquire the dexterity of a natural digit," he says.

(From: Science News, Vol. 94, August 17, 1968)