America's First Successful Hand Transplant -- One Year Later

February 03, 2000

New York (MedscapeWire) Feb 3 — January 25 marked the 1-year anniversary of the nation's first hand transplant. Matthew Scott made medical history when he received his new left hand. One year to the day, Scott arrived back at Louisville's Jewish Hospital and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center to undergo his check-up and evaluations. Results from tests,comments from all professionals involved, and the patient himself, confirm that the outcome is most successful.

Speaking during a press conference at Louisville's Jewish Hospital on Friday, January 28, Scott said, "The hand transplant has taken away the anger and frustration of not being able to do things. Now, I know if I can't dosomething, with a little more therapy, in time, I will!" Scott also added that he was glad he was given the opportunity to have a hand transplant.

Scott and his wife, Dawn, along with his physicians and hand therapists, addressed the media, answering questions and providing one-on-one interviews regarding his week-long evaluation. Tests during the week included assessments by Warren C. Breidenbach, III, MD, lead hand surgeon with Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, and Jon W. Jones, Jr., MD, lead transplant surgeon and associate professor of Surgery at University of Louisville, plus laboratory work, biopsy, social/psychological review, physical therapy, orthotics, motion analysis, nerve conduction study as wellas a primary care check-up.

Referring to Scott's transplant, Dr. Breidenbach said, "This is the most successful of all hand transplants that have taken place so far thanks to Matt and Dawn. Without the effort they put forth this might not have been a success." Breidenbach was extremely pleased with Scott's function and movement of his new hand. "Scott's left hand," says Breidenbach, "is less than a normal hand and much more than a prosthesis."

Four hand transplants have taken place in the past 16 months, 2 in Lyon, France, and 2 in the People's Republic of China. Dr. Breidenbach believes Scott has progressed better with his transplanted hand than any of the other patients thus far.

In discussing Scott's future care options, Dr. Breidenbach said, "it is doubtful if we will need to operate again. Our team would only operate for one of three reasons," Dr. Breidenbach said, "to improve function, relieve pain, or reduce scarring. Matt has no pain and any planned surgery would be minor compared to the hand transplant and would be a standard procedure."

The team concluded on Saturday that Scott would continue therapy and be reviewed again within the next 6 months.

Dr. Jones reported on Scott's biopsy results saying, "The biopsy taken this week showed no signs of rejection. The past two biopsies have been negative." Earlier last year Scott had 3 mild rejection episodes, which were expected, all being resolved by medication. Jones added, "The risk of rejection is much lower in the second year of every organ transplant case." Like that of a kidney or heart, Dr. Jones expects Scott's chance of rejection to be lower also.

Occupational hand therapist Sandra Feranda, Heartland Rehabilitation, Cherry Hill, NJ, said her goal is to "get Matt back into a normal role and normal activities." Feranda has worked with Scott to strengthen his muscles and improve fine motor skills such as dressing and grooming himself. A video at the press conference provided proof of Scott's phenomenal function, performing various tasks such is tying his shoe, dealing cards and signing his name with a pen.

Scott received his new left hand January 24-25, 1999, when surgeons from the University of Louisville and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC, performed the 15-hour procedure at Jewish Hospital.

The hand transplant procedure is expected to greatly impact the future of transplantation and reconstructive surgery. The Louisville hand transplant program was developed through a partnership with physicians aaand researchers at Jewish Hospital, the University of Louisville and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC.

"The hand transplant team is prepared to perform another transplant and currently has a candidate missing both hands listed with Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. Dr. Breidenbach encouraged the media to get the word out on the need for organ donation, not just for the candidate listed by the team, but all organ donation needs. "A family's contribution of their loved one's organs could not only save the life of someone in need of a heart or liver, but improve the quality of life for others," said Dr. Breidenbach.<


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