Of late, more road accident victims are seeking rehabilitation therapy at Government Stanley Hospital's Institute for Research and Rehabilitation of Hand and Department of Plastic Surgery.

Most of them come with injuries to nerves of the neck and shoulder. Some of them get back the function of their hand while others receive disability certificates.

The 30-year-old institute, set up to treat victims of industrial and workplace accidents, recently saw the number of hand reconstructive surgeries cross the three-lakh mark. Now, rehabilitation through physiotherapy is also provided. Where possible, the institute offers prosthetic hands too.

According to hand reconstructive surgeon R. Krishnamoorthy, often patients come with injuries sustained several years ago, delaying the healing process considerably. For instance, V. Radhakrishnan, 37, underwent 20 surgeries to his right hand since an accident at a rice mill in Kallakurichi in March 2009.

He must undergo several more surgeries before the hand that was caught in the machine regains many of its functions.

S. Anand is 23 and was injured when his thumbs were crushed by a machine in a pressure cooker manufacturing company in Pulianthope last August. He will undergo several more surgeries and the rehabilitation process will take time. Both men are out of job.

But, Dr. Krishnamoorthy and his team insist that once the hand becomes somewhat functional, patients must return to work or develop dexterity with the good arm.

At the rehabilitation medicine section S. Sampath Kumar is currently treating a road accident victim from Thanjavur, who has lost the use of his left hand after a fall from motorcycle.

“We see more such cases after the introduction of high-speed motorcycles,” the specialist said.

“Patients with brachial plexus injury [to nerves of neck and shoulder] are declared disabled. Many times the nerves may not get their normal function even after surgery,” Dr. Sampath Kumar said. Surgeries can only salvage the limb but not its function, he said.

A deceptively simple knife injury has rendered Murugan's left arm useless. The 25-year-old assault victim from Chengalpet is undergoing physiotherapy at the hospital.

But, it will be many years before he regains some of the functions of his hand. Until then he must continue therapy.

The department organises periodic sessions to encourage patients and their attendants to continue therapy and educates them on the role of immuno suppression drugs.

It is also preparing a database of patients who might require hand transplantation. “The sessions help patients form a network and refer others like them to us as soon as the injury occurs,” Dr. Krishnamoorthy said.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012