Doctors Save Man’s Severed Hand by Attaching it to His Leg

Chinese surgeons recently performed a bizarre surgery in order to save a man’s severed hand. They grafted it on to his ankle for a month, before reattaching it to his arm!

The innovative surgery was carried out on factory worker Zhou, from Changsha, China’s Hunan province. Zhou’s left hand was accidentally severed from his arm during an accident involving a spinning blade machine. He was immediately rushed to Xiangya Hospital, where Dr. Tang Juyu and his team realised that the damaged nerves and tendons needed time to heal. If they tried to attach the hand to his arm immediately, its cells would die from lack of blood supply.

“Under normal temperatures, a severed finger needs to resume blood supply within 10 hours, but that time is even shorter for a separated limb,” Tang explained. “If a limb is short of blood for too long, its tissues die and it will be unsalvageable.”

So the doctors decided to attach the hand to Zhou’s ankle, and the immediate flow of blood kept it alive for a month. During this time his arm healed, and in another 10-hour operation, they re-attached the hand to the arm.

For now, Zhou is only able to move his fingers slightly. But his condition is expected to improve with time, and soon he’ll be able to use his entire hand.


Dr. Tang happens to be a specialist in difficult tissue and wound repair cases. He and his team were in the news a couple of years ago for performing the same surgery on another worker named Xie Wei. Xie’s case was a lot more complicated because his severed hand had gone without blood supply for seven hours before he could reach a hospital with the right facilities to reattach it.

He finally reached Dr. Tang, who quickly decided to resume blood flow to the hand by grafting it to Xie’s calf. When he woke up from the operation, he could sense something heavy and weird on his leg. He later realised it was his hand – it felt warm to him, but it was numb because no nerves were connected. It was reattached to his arm a month later.


The special surgery is reported to cost about 300,000 Chinese yuan (about $50,000). That’s expensive, but totally worth it if it can save a person’s hand. And in case of accidents such as Zhou’s or Xie’s, the factory usually bears the entire cost.

Sources: CNN, The Telegraph, Shanghaiist

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