Thumbs up! Surgeon's toe triumph
Published 13/09/2011 | 16:46
A man who accidentally cut off his thumb has had his big toe attached in its place by surgeons.
James Byrne, 29, severed the thumb on his left hand last December while sawing through a piece of wood.
After an attempt to re-attach his damaged thumb was unsuccessful, Umraz Khan, plastic surgeon at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, transplanted the big toe from his left foot on to his hand.
Mr Byrne, who has an eight-year-old son, is a paver and plant operator from Fishponds, Bristol. With the thumb being the "dominant" digit, surgeons say that while losing his toe may affect him in the short term, its use on his hand far outweighs the loss to his foot.
He said: "Mr Khan re-attached my thumb but it had been badly damaged and although we tried everything, including leeches, to get the blood flowing again it didn't take.
"Mr Khan said to me 'You will have a thumb even if I have to take your toe'. I thought he was joking, but he was serious and nine months later here it is.
"The aesthetics of it don't bother me, I am just happy that it works, my work as a paver would have been destroyed without the use of my hand because I couldn't pick up a brick without a thumb but now I hope I can be back at work in a few months.
"I never thought it would work but the surgical teams and the nurses have done such a fantastic job and the care has been amazing."
Mr Khan led two teams of surgeons and anaesthetists - one working on Mr Byrne's toe while the other worked on his hand at the same time.
He said: "It is quite a rare thing to do and is a very complex micro-surgical procedure which involves re-attaching the bone, nerves, arteries, tendons, ligaments and skin of the toe to the hand. James will have to learn to re-balance, without his left great toe, on to the ball of the foot but he will be able to walk and jog normally."