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German medical team arms man, twice

World's first double arm transplant

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Medical science has given a 54-year-old German farmer new hope to again indicate how large a fish he's caught by successfully fitting him with a new pair of arms.

Munich University Clinic said doctors spent 15 hours grafting fresh limbs onto his body, in what they believe is the world's first complete double arm transplant.

The amputee lost his original set in an accident six years ago. He consulted the microsurgery unit which performed the operation after two failed attempts to use prosthetics.

The farmer's name, as well as the identity of the donor who died shortly before the surgery, was not released.

Transplant team chief Christoph Hoehnke told reporters that he was touched to see the patient's wife instinctively reach for his hands when she came to his bedside after the operation, according to the AFP.

The procedure was done by 40 doctors, nurses and assistants spread across five teams working arm-in-arm. "The whole thing went according to script," Hoehnke said.

Before his bones could be cut, doctors had to fill the man's blood vessels in his arms with a cooled preservation solution. Then bones were joined, followed by arteries and veins to ensure blood circulation began quickly as possible.

Although the patient can't yet applaud the doctors' work, they expect his network of nerves to expand at about one millimeter per day. It's predicted to be at least two years before he will be able to use his new hands without assistance.

However, doctors can't rule out that the patient's body may reject the foreign limbs. He'll be taking medication that suppresses the immune system for the rest of his life to lessen the chances of this happening.

The clinic said that until now, only transplants of the lower arms have taken place. The upper arm poses a greater challenge to get the circulatory system to handle the change. ®

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