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Hand transplantation

hand transplantation, hand transplantation images
Hand transplantation is a surgical procedure to transplant a hand from one human to another The "donor" hand usually comes from a brain-dead donor and is transplanted to a recipient who has lost one or both hands/arms Most hand transplants to date have been performed on below elbow amputees, although above elbow transplants are gaining popularity Hand transplants were the first of a new category of transplants where multiple organs are transplanted as a single functional unit, now termed "Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation" or VCA

The operation is quite extensive and typically lasts from 8–12 hours By comparison, a typical heart transplant operation lasts 6 to 8 hours Surgeons usually connect the bones first, followed by tendons, arteries, nerves, veins, and skin

The recipient of a hand transplant needs to take immunosuppressive drugs similar to other transplants such as kidneys or livers, as the body's natural immune system will try to reject, or destroy, the hand These drugs cause the recipient to have a weaker immune system which may lead to an increased risk of infections and some cancers There have been many advances in solid organ transplantation over the years that have made these medications quite tolerable

After the transplant, there is a period of extensive hand therapy/rehabilitation which helps the recipients regain function of the transplanted hand Those patients who are dedicated to taking the medications and performing the physical therapy following a hand transplant have had remarkable success in regaining function of the new hands/arms


  • 1 History
  • 2 Long Term Functionality
  • 3 Survival rates
  • 4 Programs
    • 41 United States
    • 42 United Kingdom
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links


A hand transplant was performed in Ecuador in 1964, but the patient suffered from transplant rejection after only two weeks due to the primitive nature of the immune-suppressing medications at that time

The first short-term success in human hand transplant occurred with New Zealander Clint Hallam who had lost his hand in an accident while in prison The operation was performed on September 23, 1998 in Lyon, France by a team assembled from different countries around the world including Prof Nadey Hakim who represented the UK, and Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard from France A microsurgeon on the team, Earl Owen from Australia, was privy to the detailed basic research, much of it unpublished, that had been carefully gathered by the teamwho in Louisville After the operation, Hallam wasn't comfortable with the idea of his transplanted hand and failed to follow the prescribed post-operative drug and physiotherapy His inaccurate expectations became a vivid example of the necessity of a fully committed team of caregivers, including psychologists, that can correctly select and prepare the potential transplant recipients for the lengthy and difficult recovery and for the modest functional restoration of a transplanted hand to be expected Hallam's transplanted hand was removed at his request by the transplant surgeon Nadey Hakim on February 2, 2001 following another episode of rejection

The first hand transplant to achieve prolonged success was directed by a team of Kleinert Kutz Hand Care surgeons including Warren C Breidenbach, Tsu-Min Tsai, Luis Scheker, Steven McCabe, Amitava Gupta, Russell Shatford, William O'Neill, Martin Favetto and Michael Moskal in cooperation with the Christine M Kleinert Institute, Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky The procedure was performed on New Jersey native Matthew Scott on January 14, 1999 Scott had lost his hand in a fireworks accident at age 24 Later in 1999, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team asked him to do the honors of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch The Louisville group went on to perform the first five hand transplants in the United States and have performed 12 hand transplants in ten recipients as of 2016

In contrast to the earlier attempts at hand transplantation, the Louisville group had performed extensive basic science research and feasibility studies for many years prior to their first clinical procedure for example, Shirbacheh et al, 19981 There was also considerable transparency and institutional review board oversight involved in the screening and selection of prospective patients

In March 2000, a team of surgeons at the University of Innsbruck in Austria began a series of three bilateral hand transplants over six years The first was an Austrian police officer who had lost both hands attempting to defuse a bomb He has completed an around-the-world solo motorcycle trip using his transplanted hands

University of Louisville doctors also performed a successful hand transplant on Michigan native Jerry Fisher in February 2001, and Michigan resident David Savage in 20062

On January 14, 2004, the team of Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard Edouard-Herriot Hospital, France declared a five-year-old double hand transplant a success The lessons learned in this case, and in the 26 other hand transplants 6 double which occurred between 2000 and 2005, gave encouragement to other transplant operations of such organs as the face, abdominal wall and larynx

On May 4, 2009 Jeff Kepner, a 57-year-old Augusta, Georgia, resident, underwent the first double hand transplant in the United States at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center by a team led by WP Andrew Lee, who also had been performing careful basic research on such transplants for many years A CNN story on his follow up demonstrated the limited functional restoration to be expected, particularly following bilateral transplantation3

On February 18, 2010 the first female in the United States underwent hand transplantation at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas The procedure was performed by surgeons from The Hand Center of San Antonio and US Air Force4

On June 22, 2010, a Polish soldier received two new hands from a female donor, after losing them three years earlier while saving a young recruit from a bomb

On March 8, 2011, 26-year-old Emily Fennell underwent an 18-hour surgery to attach a right hand This was performed in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center56

March 12, 2011 Linda Lu became the recipient of the first hand transplant in the Southeast, performed at Emory University Hospital,7 from a donor Leslie Sullivent8

In the fall of 2011, 28-year-old Lindsay Ess received a double hand transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in an 11 1/2 hour surgery9

On December 27, 2012, 51-year-old Mark Cahill received a right hand transplant at Leeds General Infirmary in the UK The recipient's hand was removed during the same 8 hour operation, reportedly allowing very accurate restoration of nerve structures, believed to be an international first10

On February 27, 2013, 38-year-old Eskandar Moghaddami received hand transplant surgery by the 15th of Khordad Hospital plastic surgery team in Tehran, Iran

On January 13, 2015, Doctors at the Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre AIMS successfully conducted India's first hand transplant A 30-year-old man, who had lost both his hands in a train accident, received the hands of a 24-year-old accident victim11

On July 28, 2015, Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia performed the first successful bilateral hand transplant on a child12 At the age of 2, Zion Harvey lost his hands and feet to a life-threatening infection, 6 years later, at the age of 8 years old, Zion had both of his hands replaced in a double hand transplant13

On October 26, 2016, the Director of hand transplantation at UCLA, Dr Kodi Azari and his team14, performed a hand transplant on 51-year old entertainment executive from Los Angeles, Jonathan Koch at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Koch underwent a 17-hour procedure to replace his left hand he lost to a mysterious, life-threatening illness that struck him in January 201515 On June 23, 2015, Koch had the amputation surgery also performed by Dr Kodi Azari, that was designed to prep him to receive a transplanted limb, which included severing the left hand closer to the wrist than the elbow Azari kept all the nerves and tendons long and extended, which would give him plenty to work with later Then he sutured them together and attached them to the stump of bone to keep them from retracting16 This is the first known hand transplant case where the hand was amputated in preparation for a hand transplant as opposed to previous hand transplant patients that have undergone a typical amputation surgery Azari's theory, that prepping the hand for a transplant during the initial amputation surgery, would later be supported by Koch when he was able to move his thumb only 2 hours after he woke up from the 17-hour transplant surgery17 and move his entire hand only 2 days after surgery18 In addition to LA Magazine19 and The Times20, Koch's story was further documented on ABC's Nightline with Juju Chang that aired May 18, 2017 with the goal of making more people aware of hand transplanation21

Long Term Functionalityedit

The long-term functionality varies patient to patient and is affected by several factors including level of amputation and transplant and participation in physical therapy post hand transplant surgery Hand transplant recipient Jonathan Koch was able to pick up a napkin and a tennis ball with his newly transplanted hand 7 days after his 17-hour surgery and by day 9, he was able to pick up a bottle of water and take a drink 3 months after surgery, Koch was able to use his transplanted hand to tie his shoe22

Survival ratesedit

Although the one-year survival rate of transplanted hands has been excellent at institutions that are fully committed to the procedure, the number of hand transplants performed after 2008 has been small due to drug-related side effects, uncertain long-term outcome, and the high costs of surgery, rehabilitation and immunosuppression23


United Statesedit

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Hand and Arm Transplant Program - Led by W P Andrew Lee, MD Located in Baltimore, MD, the program was approved by the Johns Hopkins Medicine Institutional Review Board in July 2011 This is one of only 2 programs in the United States approved to perform hand/arm transplants using an immunomodulatory protocol, which enables patients to take 1 drug instead of 3 after the transplant to maintain the hand or arm The program is funded by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command MRMCArmed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine AFIRM to transplant up to 6 Wounded Warriors or civilians who have a hand or arm amputation on one or both sides

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Hand Transplant Program - Led by Dr Michael W Neumeister, MD, FRCSC, FACS, the SIU hand transplant program is located in Springfield, Illinois The program was officially launched in January 2014 after receiving IRB approval and grant funding to transplant five patients, unilateral or bilateral, at minimal cost to the patients

UCLA Hand Transplant Program - Led by Dr Kodi Azari, MD, FACS, located in Los Angeles, CA, the program was launched July 28, 2010 and at the time was the only one on the West Coast and one of only four in the country24

United Kingdomedit

In 2016 it was announced that NHS patients in England were to become some of the first in the world to benefit from publicly-funded pioneering hand and upper arm transplants delivered by a specialist team at Leeds General Infirmary25


  1. ^ Shirbacheh, M V; et al 1998 "The case for local immunosuppression in composite tissue allotransplantation" Transplantation Proceedings 30 6: 2739–2742 doi:101016/S0041-13459800800-8 
  2. ^ Knox, Richard 11 October 2008 "After Hand Transplant, Patient's Brain Adapts" NPR Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  3. ^ Park, Madison 30 August 2010 "One year after double hand transplant, progress elusive" CNN Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  4. ^ "First US Amputee Woman Gets Successful Hand Transplant" Fox News 4 March 2010 Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  5. ^ Moster, Roxanne 7 March 2011 "UCLA performs first hand transplant in the western United States" UCLA Newsroom Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  6. ^ Caulfield, Philip 20 April 2011 "MIRACLE: Emily Fennell debuts new hand after transplant; young mom is West Coast's first recipient" New York Daily News Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  7. ^ "Emory performs rare hand transplant" Emory News Center 30 March 2011 Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  8. ^ Lynch-Jones, Lorra 22 July 2011 "Leslie Sullivent Donated Her Hand for Transplant" 13WMAZ Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  9. ^ Lohmann, Bill November 1, 2011 "New hands, new hope for woman who lost her limbs" Richmond Times-Dispatch Retrieved April 9, 2017 
  10. ^ "Hand transplant is a national first for Leeds" Press release Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 2013-01-03 Archived from the original on 2013-12-31 Retrieved 2013-12-30 
  11. ^ "Kerala hospital carries out the first-ever hand transplant in India | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis" Dnaindiacom 2015-01-14 Retrieved 2017-04-08 
  12. ^ Children's Hospital of Philadelphia July 28, 2015 "World's first bilateral hand transplant on child" ScienceDaily Retrieved 8 April 2017 
  13. ^ "World's First Bilateral Hand Transplant on a Child: Zion's Story | Children's Hospital of Philadelphia" Chopedu 2015-07-28 Retrieved 2017-04-08 
  14. ^ "UCLA Hand Transplant Program - Composite Tissue Allotransplantation | UCLA Transplantation Services - Los Angeles, CA" transplantsuclaedu Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  15. ^ Albin, Amy "Patient makes dramatic recovery from amputation to transplanted hand" UCLA Newsroom Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  16. ^ "The Hollywood Exec and the Hand Transplant That Changed His Life - Page 2 of 2 - Los Angeles Magazine" Los Angeles Magazine 2017-03-20 Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  17. ^ "Jonathan Koch - Hand Transplant | Motivational Speaker | Los Angeles" Jonathan Koch - Hand Transplant | Motivational Speaker | Los Angeles Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  18. ^ "Jonathan Koch - Hand Transplant | Motivational Speaker | Los Angeles" Jonathan Koch - Hand Transplant | Motivational Speaker | Los Angeles Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  19. ^ "The Hollywood Exec and the Hand Transplant That Changed His Life - Los Angeles Magazine" Los Angeles Magazine 2017-03-20 Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  20. ^ Wallace, Amy "‘You’re probably going to die tonight’" Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  21. ^ "Nightline: 05/18/17: Special Edition: Within Reach Watch Full Episode | 05/18/2017" ABC Retrieved 2017-05-23 
  22. ^ "Nightline: 05/18/17: Special Edition: Within Reach Watch Full Episode | 05/18/2017" ABC Retrieved 2017-05-27 
  23. ^ Schneeberger, Stefan; et al 2008 "Hand Transplantation: The Innsbruck Experience" Transplantation of Composite Tissue Allografts pp 234–250 ISBN 978-0-387-74681-4 doi:101007/978-0-387-74682-1_17 
  24. ^ Hewitt, Alison "Hand transplant program to offer life-altering surgery" UCLA Newsroom Retrieved 2017-05-27 
  25. ^ "Home" Handtransplantukcom Retrieved 2017-04-08 

Further readingedit

  • Amirlak B, Gonzalez R, Gorantla V, Breidenbach WC, Tobin GR April 2007 "Creating a hand transplant program" Clin Plast Surg 34 2: 279–89, x PMID 17418677 doi:101016/jcps200701002 
  • Lanzetta M, Petruzzo P, Dubernard JM, et al July 2007 "Second report 1998-2006 of the International Registry of Hand and Composite Tissue Transplantation" Transpl Immunol 18 1: 1–6 PMID 17584595 doi:101016/jtrim200703002 
  • Jones JW, Gruber SA, Barker JH, Breidenbach WC August 2000 "Successful hand transplantation One-year follow-up Louisville Hand Transplant Team" N Engl J Med 343 7: 468–73 PMID 10950668 doi:101056/NEJM200008173430704 

External linksedit

  • wwwhandtransplantorg
  • wwwsiumededu/handtransplant
  • World's first successful hand transplant
  • The New York Times, December 6, 2005, "A Pioneering Transplant, and Now an Ethical Storm"
  • CNN, May 8, 2009, "Pastry chef receives double hand transplant"

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Hand transplantation

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