Nerve Transplant Patient Scheduled to Leave Hospital Today
Nov. 20, 2000 -- He stayed the weekend after his ground-breaking neurological surgery. Today, 8-month-old Rodrigo Cervantes Corona is expected to leave Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital, in Houston.
Rodrigo received nerves from his mother Friday as part of a treatment plan to restore the use of his left arm. His doctors had said the procedure was the first that used nerves from a living donor and that Rodrigo is the youngest recipient of such a transplant.
The little pioneering patient will stay in Houston for a month or two, says Beth Sartori, the hospital's director of public relations. Then he will return to his home in Morelia, Mexico, returning to Texas for follow-up with his doctors every 3 months. Some time between late next summer and Thanksgiving 2001, his doctors will know if the surgery worked. But so far, his doctors are pleased with the results.
"The patient came through very well," Mark Henry, MD, said in a statement released after the surgery Friday evening. "I'm very happy that we were able to achieve our primary objective, which was the safety of the infant and the protection of all the normal nerves in his body."
The surgery began early Friday morning. It was originally slated to last 6-12 hours but actually took 12. Sartori says the extra time was needed because of the meticulous work involved in attaching his mother's nerves along the infant's left arm and down to his left hand.
During his birth, Rodrigo suffered an injury to his left shoulder from brachial plexus palsy; he lost stability and sensory and motor function of his left arm. One or two babies per thousand experience damage to the brachial nerves during birth, but except for some mild bruising, many fully recover use of the arm. This was not true for Rodrigo.
"In this case, there was no chance [for the nerve damage to] resolve on its own," Scott Gruber, MD, PhD, told WebMD on Friday while the surgical team worked on Rodrigo.
Shortly after birth, doctors in Mexico performed an exploratory surgery on the baby and found that the brachial nerves in his shoulder were completely torn. To help repair the damage, they removed some of the sensory nerves from Rodrigo's legs and transplanted them into the injured shoulder. "That's the current [treatment]," says Gruber, who headed Rodrigo's transplant team.
But even if that first operation was successful, Gruber says all that could be hoped for was a stable shoulder and some movement in the elbow. So, last week, doctors removed some of the sensory nerves from the back of Rodrigo's mother's legs, storing the nerves in the same solution used to preserve organs for transplantation.
Friday, the nerve graft was implanted into Rodrigo by opening his right shoulder, sliding the graft along under the skin, and connecting it to the arm on his injured left side.