Hand and Arm Transplant Surgery

Hand and arm transplantation surgery, the transfer of the hand(s)/arm(s) from a deceased human donor to a patient with amputation of one or both hands/arms, is an experimental reconstructive procedure that has the potential to significantly improve the lives of upper extremity amputees.

In early October 2011, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) team of more than 40 surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, residents, radiologists, and physician assistants worked for more than 12 hours to perform a bilateral (double) hand transplant for Richard Mangino, 65, of Revere, MA.  Mangino, a quadruple amputee, lost his arms below the elbows and legs below the knees after contracting sepsis in 2002. The transplant involved a composite of multiple tissues, including skin, tendons, muscles, ligaments, bones, and blood vessels on both the left and right forearms and hands. 

The BWH hand and arm transplant team, representing a wide variety of medical and surgical specialties, now hopes to build upon this success to provide other amputee patients with the significant benefits of hand and arm transplantation. Toward this goal, BWH is actively seeking qualified candidates for our hand/arm transplant research study. Our team will be studying a small group of people to help develop best practices that will improve outcomes for current and future hand and arm transplant recipients.

We describe hand and arm transplant surgery as a life-giving procedure because it has the potential to dramatically improve, i.e., restore, both a patient’s mental and physical health and his/her ability to function and integrate in society. However, as with any other type of organ transplantation, this improvement will require the patient to make a lifetime commitment to taking medications that suppress the body’s immune system.

Functionally, hand and arm transplant surgery can provide a patient with new hands/arms that, after extensive rehabilitation, allow him/her to perform daily activities and, in most cases, return to work. Furthermore, the ability to restore a near-normal aesthetic appearance of the upper extremities can lead to tremendous psychological benefits, including elevated confidence and mood.

Access the BWH Hand Transplant Patient Guide.

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