As doctors in Pune performed India’s first ever uterus transplant on Thursday, here’s a recap of the milestone surgeries in India’s medical history. While the country has been slightly behind the world average in terms of organ transplants, it’s emerging as an efficient and qualitative medical destination for western population.
The most common organ transplanted in India is the kidney, followed by lungs, pancreas and heart. With the advances in the field of medicine, India has started performing complex surgeries like intestine, uterus and hand transplant, which were performed in the last 4-5 years.
Dr P Venugopal, ex-director and former head of cardiothoracic centre at AIIMS (All India Institute Of Medical Sciences) performed the first-ever heart transplant surgery on August 4, 1994.
Dr Venugopal’s claim to fame, Devi Ram, was a middle-aged, heavy industry worker. Critics from the medical fraternity and the media speculated that Ram won’t survive for more than three months.
Ram lived for 15 more years.
He eventually succumbed to brain tumour.
The first successful live kidney transplant of the world between two patients was performed by Dr Joseph Murray on December 23, 1954, at Brigham Hospital in Boston, for which he received a Nobel Prize. It took India 11 years to perform the same surgery, which was undertaken at King Edward Memorial Hospital at Mumbai in May 1965. The family of a cadaver donor gave away his kidneys to a non-renal failure patient, who was suffering from hypernephroma (the most common type of kidney cancer).
Sanjay Kandasamy from Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu underwent a liver transplant as an 18-month-old child in November 1998 at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi. Born with a rare condition known as Biliary Atresia, (seen in 1 in 12,000 babies) Sanjay’s liver had no connection with the intestine, so the bile produced in the liver couldn’t be excreted, which damaged the liver.
While there is no specific documentation of the first pancreas transplant in the country, the first recipient worldwide was a 28-year-old woman at University Hospital, University of Minnesota in 1962.
Almost 50 years later, a team of doctors from Pune carried out the states’ first combined pancreas-kidney transplant.
The recipient, a 28-year-old management professional, was suffering from type I diabetes for 18 years, and was dependent on insulin shots to control blood sugar.
While the simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplant was common in western countries by then, it was still rare in India. Doctors, in fact, said no more than seven to eight such surgeries could have ever been performed in the country.
Bedridden throughout 2011, Mumbai woman Jayashree Mehta was the first Mumbai resident in the country to undergo a lung transplant. Mehta’s lungs had thickened to the extent that she needed external oxygen supply, as much as nine liters, to keep her alive.
However, after using an oxygen cylinder for a year, she underwent a complex 12-hour long surgery at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.
Intestinal transplant surgery, which could have saved the life of Delhi’s December 16 bus gang rape victim, was done for the first time in India in 2013 at Medanta – The Medicity, when a team of 30 doctors successfully gave Himanshu Singh, 30, a healthy small intestine from a cadaver donor on November 24.
Since 60% of intestinal transplants fail because of high infection and jettison of the transplanted organ, the hospital waited to announce the results till the patient had recovered. All earlier attempts at transplanting intestines have failed in India.
“This is the first time an intestinal transplant has been accomplished,” said Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of Medanta.
India’s first successful double hand transplant was done in Kochi two years ago. Over 20 surgeons at the Amrita Insititute of Medical Sciences conducted the complex surgery that went on for 16 hours on the 30-year-old man who had lost his hands while trying to protecting a woman from being harassed by a group of men.
Manu, the recipient, was pushed off the train by the men. He lost both his hands in the incident, but can now write with his new hands. The total cost of the surgery, which amounted to Rs15 lakh, was borne by the hospital.