Before & After Surgery

Hand Transplant Program

The Institute for Plastic Surgery at SIU has a long-standing history of innovative hand microsurgical procedures including hand/finger replantation. Hand transplantation is another opportunity for the Institute to bring cutting-edge surgical options to the region.

The Institute, in partnership with Memorial Medical Center, is conducting a clinical trial of hand and upper extremity transplantation for patients who have previously lost one or both hands/arms. The trial was approved by the Springfield Committee for Research Involving Human Subjects on Oct. 17, 2013, (IRB protocol # 12-811) and is currently enrolling patients.

Before the Transplant

Once a patient is found to be a good candidate for hand transplantation, they will be placed on a waiting list. All organ donors from the surrounding region will then be screened for compatibility with the patient in regard to blood type, tissue type, CMV virus status as well as hand size, skin color, tone and hair patterns. Once an appropriate donor is located, the hand transplant team will be mobilized and the patient will be brought to the hospital for the surgery.

The Surgery

Once the final match between the patient and donor is confirmed, the patient goes to surgery and the transplant begins. The donor limbs are delivered to the operating room, and each structure is carefully attached, including the bones, blood vessels, tendons, muscles, nerves and skin. Anti-rejection medications are started during surgery. A bulky protective splint is then placed on the arm along with oxygen monitoring probes. The surgery usually takes about 12 hours.

After Surgery

After surgery the patient will stay in the intensive care unit for one to three days for close monitoring. They will then move to a regular hospital room, where they will stay for one to two weeks. Physical therapy will begin within two to three days after surgery. Transplant nurse educators will spend time with the patient daily for instruction on the anti-rejection medications. After discharge from the hospital, the patient will stay near the medical center for three to six months for close monitoring for signs of rejection and for extensive hand rehabilitation.