Spanish doctors have converted a man's right hand into his left, transplanting it onto the left arm and changing the place of the thumb, representatives of the medical team said on Monday in the eastern city of Valencia.

The 63-year-old man had lost his left hand in an accident four decades ago.

Three years ago, he suffered a stroke which made him unable to use the right side of his body.

The man was operated on April 29 and was due to leave hospital this week. He will be able to use the hand "reasonably well" within a few months, Dr Pedro Cavadas said.

Spanish sources described the operation as the first of its kind worldwide.

In 2006, the same medical team gave a handless woman the hands of the victim of a traffic accident. The woman can now write her name.