Doctors using new procedure to reattach severed hands

65,000 Americans will lose a limb this year, and that's not counting the men and women serving in our armed forces. Now, a new FDA approved technique is helping reattach hands and give patients control that could have been lost forever.

From sanding walls, laying tile and installing toilets, Pat Marvin has done it all, but it's fixing the back patio of her home that she'll never forget. "When I came down with the miter, I saw something fly by me," Pat said. "... and I turned around, and I looked, and it was my hand laying on the floor."

With her hand severed, Pat was able to make it up the stairs, out the door and call for help, hoping she'd be able to have it re-attached and use it again.

Surgeon Lawrence Lubbers has been reattaching hands for 30 years and says the trick is the tendons. "When you put the suture in, it slips out, and when you put the knot in, it reduces its holding power by 50 percent right off the bat," Lubbers said.

That's why he created a new suture-free fix. "It's an all stainless steel device that's like a corkscrew that screws into the tendons and grabs the fibers."

It took Dr. Lubbers eight hours to reattach the 30 different tendons, muscles and bones in Pat's hand. She should get 70 to 90 percent of the use of her hand back.

It will take three to four years for the tissues to regenerate completely, but after just seven months of physical therapy, Pat's reunited with her tools, and her railing is finished.

"I said I wanted to be able to hold a hammer," she said. "I can hold a hammer." And she says she plans to use the saw again.

Dr. Lubbers says if a limb or finger is put on ice immediately and preserved correctly, doctors have up to 24 hours to reattach a finger, but just six hours for a hand or arm.


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