As with any type of surgery, leg transplant surgery presents both benefits and risks. Below are some of the major factors that leg transplant candidates should consider. For a more thorough discussion of the benefits and risks of leg transplant surgery, please read our Leg Transplant Patient Guide.
The potential benefits of leg transplant surgery are unique and life changing. Here are a few of these significant benefits:
Improved functionality – Leg transplant surgery can restore the physical functionality of the legs, including tactile sensation and possibly the ability to walk independently. For patients with amputations at the level of the mid-thigh, leg transplantation also offers the possibility of restoring knee function.
Restoration of appearance - Leg transplant restores a near-normal appearance to the patient’s lower extremity, which can help patients regain the confidence to return to their former lifestyles, including jobs and social activities.
Any type of surgery presents risks, but there are certain risks that tend to be specific to leg transplant surgery or transplant surgery in general, including:
Rejection - The possibility exists that a leg transplant will be rejected by the patient's immune system. If this occurs, the transplanted leg will have to be removed and alternatives will be discussed, including another leg transplant at a later time. Although this is a relatively new procedure, it is notable that no leg transplant patients who consistently have taken their immunosuppressive medications have lost their transplanted legs.
Increased pain and discomfort – When compared to the alternatives (doing nothing or using a prosthesis), the patient undergoing leg transplantation will experience more post-operative pain and discomfort. Patients will likely experience a 10-day hospital stay and blood draws will be frequently necessary to monitor the levels of immunosuppressive medications.
Psychological issues - As the legs are used continuously during the day, there is a concern that the patient may have difficulty adjusting to the new limbs. The patient also may feel anxiety when dealing with the reactions of friends and family to the physical change.
Functionality issues – It is possible that after leg transplantation the patient will experience persistent deficits in leg motion, limiting the functionality of the transplanted leg.
Drug side-effects – The medications used to help prevent rejection of donated legs, or any type of transplanted tissue or organ, increase a patient’s risk for developing infections, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Read our Leg Transplant Patient Guide to learn more about the estimates for each risk and what we do to counter these risks.