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Leg Transplant Surgery

In April 2009, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) surgical team successfully performed the first partial face transplant on the East Coast. Since then, our team has completed several additional face transplants – including the first full face transplant in the U.S. – as well as a number of bilateral (double) hand transplants.

Leg transplantation is similar to both face and hand transplantation in that the transplanted tissue is a composite of various tissues, such as skin, tendons, muscles, ligaments, bones, and blood vessels. Our team, representing a wide variety of medical and surgical specialties, now hopes to build upon our success in face and hand transplantation to provide amputee patients with the significant benefits of leg transplantation.

Toward this goal, BWH is actively seeking qualified candidates for our leg transplant research study. Our team will be studying a small group of people to learn more about:

  • How to do a leg transplant in the best possible way
  • How to stop the body from rejecting the transplant
  • How people do after leg transplantation

Conventional leg reconstruction methods are always considered first, but they may provide less than optimal results for certain patients. There are many sophisticated prostheses that satisfactorily replace the basic function of a lower extremity. However, replacing lower extremities (in whole or in part) with prosthetics remains suboptimal in that prostheses do not provide sensation and are not natural-appearing substitutes for missing limbs.

Leg transplant surgery, however, has the potential to deliver these desired functional and aesthetic benefits. Functionally, leg transplant surgery may be able to provide a patient with new legs that, after extensive rehabilitation, allow him/her to perform daily activities and, potentially, walk without assistance. Furthermore, the ability to restore a near-normal aesthetic appearance of the leg(s) may lead to tremendous psychological benefits, including elevated confidence and mood.


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