Xiao Wei lost his right hand in an accident, but surgeons couldn't re-attach it right away. His arm needed time to heal. But his hand was in desperate need of a blood supply – so surgeons attached it to arteries in his left ankle. Warning: Graphic hankle imagery below the fold.
Hand-reattachment surgery of this nature is rare, but it's not unheard of, and Chinese surgeons are reportedly quite skilled in the microsurgical techniques required for full-hand reattachment. (Some years ago, when doctors at Stony Brook University Medical Center successfully re-attached both of a man's hands, surgeons were quick to point out that the rare procedure had only been performed once before – in China.)
What makes this case particularly rare is the surgeons' decision to attach Wei's hand to his ankle.
"The concept of saving a severed part of the body by attaching it to another part of the body to give it a blood supply is well recognised," said Cairian Healy of the Royal College of Surgeons in England in an interview with the BBC. "The ankle is a hard place to graft though. Usually surgeons would go for the armpit because the blood supply is better."