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University of Michigan Health System launches hand transplant program

UM Transplant Center program is first of its kind in Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan Health System has launched a new hand transplant program, the first of its kind in Michigan, and is actively seeking adult candidates for this life-altering surgery.

Hand transplantation is part of the U-M Transplant Center’s new vascular composite allograft program, which refers to transplants involving several different kinds of vascularized tissue like skin, muscle and bone. U-M plans to do a hand transplant first, but this field of transplantation also includes face, abdominal wall and other types of transplants.

“In the last decade, a rapidly growing number of these types of transplants have been performed worldwide with very encouraging outcomes,” says John Magee, M.D., director of the U-M Transplant Center and a transplant surgeon.

“U-M did the first organ transplant in the state of Michigan in 1964, so it’s fitting that we add this new transplant option for our patients. Our physicians have trained with the top hand transplant surgeons in the world, and we already have a long-standing history of a multi-disciplinary approach to caring for transplant patients.”

About 540,000 people in the United States are living with an upper limb loss. Hand transplant provides a surgical procedure that transfers a hand from a deceased human donor to a patient who has lost one or both hands.

Hand transplantation can be an option for patients with amputations or injuries of the arm or hand, says U-M’s Kagan Ozer, M.D., who is the surgical director of the new program and has specialized in post-traumatic reconstruction in elbow and hand surgery.

“Regaining an arm or hand can vastly improve the quality of life of a patient, allowing them to do daily tasks. We believe hand transplantation can be a great option to help people who haven’t had success with other options like prosthetics,” says Ozer. who is also clinical associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the U-M Medical School.

“Recipients say it makes a tremendous difference in their quality of life. They can grasp, touch, and most importantly feel objects. Restoration of sensation is currently not possible in other methods of reconstruction.”

U-M plans to seek candidates aged 18 to 65. Hand transplants have been performed in the United States for about 15 years, but are still quite rare as only seven programs nationwide offer the transplants. Over 100 transplants have been done worldwide.

Hand transplantation is a complicated surgery, that can last up to 12 hours. The human hand consists of multiple bones, muscles, three major nerves and two major arteries along with numerous tendons, and veins.

“We have a long history of limb reconstruction and reattachment here at U-M, along with a strong transplant center with a proven history of managing patients both before and after transplant,” says Abhijit Naik, M.B.B.S., an assistant professor of nephrology and medical director of the new transplant program.

Candidates will be carefully screened, and evaluated by a team of experts in surgery, medicine, transplantation, social work, and psychiatry. Those who are eligible will be placed on the waiting list for a donor hand. The waiting list is directed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and administered locally by Gift of Life Michigan.

Candidates interested can get more information at this link: http://www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/transplant/hand-transplant

About the University of Michigan Transplant Center: U-M has one of the oldest and largest transplantation programs in the country, and has done more than 10,000 transplants. U-M surgeons perform transplants of hearts, lungs, pancreases, livers, hands, kidneys, and corneas. About 400 to 450 transplants are done at U-M annually, mostly kidney transplants followed by liver, heart, lung and pancreas.

More information about becoming an organ, tissue, bone marrow or blood donor is available at www.wolverinesforlife.org.

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