JH Does Double Hand Transplant

Thanks to the expertise of the team from Kleinert Kutz and Associates (KKA), University of Louisville surgeons and the social networking capabilities of Jewish Hospital’s Department of Marketing and Communications, the entire world was able to follow the 17.5-hour double hand transplant performed at Jewish Hospital’s Hand Care Center on July 24th and 25th in real time by “twittering” using http://twitter.com/jewishhospital.

The surgery was just the third double-hand transplant in the United States. Fewer than 50 hand transplants have been performed worldwide since KKA and UofL surgeons performed the nation’s first hand transplant at Jewish Hospital in 1999. Surgery began at 9:15 on Tuesday evening, July 24, and the team, which included six surgeons, 14 fellows and a number of anesthesiologists and Jewish Hospital operating staff, rotated through the OR during the surgery, which ended at about 2:30 in the afternoon on July 25. Senior hand fellows not assisting with the surgery remained outside the operating suite and updated the Twitter feed during the procedure.

The double hand transplant recipient, Dr. Richard Edwards, of Edmond, OK, suffered severe burns on both his hands, which were non-functioning. The patient waited three years for the surgery since the alternative would have been to have the hands amputated. His daily life was difficult since he could not perform even the simplest tasks without assistance. Dr. Edwards got a look at his new hands for the first time on Friday, August 27, when all the bandages were removed so doctors could evaluate how the hands are doing.

As Edwards saw his hands for the first time, he said, “Ooh, awesome. I am a blessed man.” He later added, “I feel very blessed and fortunate to be one of the few people chosen to have new hands. I just can’t believe I got this far and am so happy about it. I have been praying for the donor family ever since I got the call that donor hands were available. I prayed to God to give them peace.”

The 55-year-old recipient made his living as a chiropractor before losing both hands when his truck caught fire on February 11, 2006. Unable to escape the burning vehicle, he was severely burned on his face, back, arms and hands, leaving very little tissue in both hands.

Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D, with Kleinert Kutz & Associates, who lead a team of 20 hand surgeons to perform the bilateral hand transplants, is pleased with Edwards’ progress thus far. “His movements are already four weeks ahead of our other patients,” said Dr. Breidenbach. “He is already forming a fist in his left hand. In both hands, he can move the wrist and each individual finger.”

The patient’s immune system will be suppressed with a combination of drugs. Michael Marvin, M.D. chief of transplantation, Jewish Hospital/University of Louisville, will closely monitor the patient for signs of rejection and adverse reaction to medications with lab tests and biopsies. He will follow the same three-month recovery process in Louisville as the nation’s first five single-hand recipients whose procedures were also performed at Jewish Hospital. During his recovery time in Louisville, he will undergo extensive rehabilitation and will face extra challenges because both of his hands have been involved.

The transplant is sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and the Office of Army Research. Go to www.handtransplant.com for photos, videos and more information about the transplants.

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