Between 6,000 and 10,000 upper extremity amputations occur each year in the United States, and more than 1,200 soldiers have lost a limb as a result of explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is estimated that more than 1.3 million people in the United States currently have some form of amputation.
Appropriate candidates for hand transplantation are people who have lost one or both hands, who are in good general health, and are dedicated to taking the transplant medications after the surgery. They must also be motivated to complete the required rehabilitation program following the surgery.
The first long-term successful hand transplant was performed in Louisville, Ky., in 1999. Since that time, nearly 100 hands have been transplanted worldwide with very encouraging results. Below is a summary of hand transplant outcomes from around the world as of 2013:
- More than 90%of the hands survived five years after transplantation (compared to 75 percent for kidneys).
- 100% of patients gained protective sensation (such as the ability to feel if something is hot or sharp).
- 84% of patients gained discriminative sensation (the ability to sense fine texture such as if something feels course or smooth).
- Functional recovery has been quite good, enabling patients to perform most activities of daily living such as using a cellphone, brushing hair and teeth and so on.
- The majority of patients have returned to work after transplantation.
- The majority of patients reported improved quality of life after hand transplantation.