FAQ

How do I know if I’m eligible for a hand transplant?

The best way to find out is to call the U-M Hand Transplant Program at 1-800-333-9013 or email us.  If you reach voicemail, please leave your phone number and a good time to contact you. A member of our transplant team will call you back as soon as possible.

What is a hand transplant?

A hand transplant is a surgical procedure to transfer a hand from a deceased human donor to a patient who has lost one or both hands.

The first successful hand transplant was done in 1999. The first U.S. hand transplant was done a few months later, and that patient is still living with his donor hand. Today, over 100 hand transplants have been performed around the world.

Several double hand transplants, in which the patients had both hands replaced, have also been performed.

What is replantation?

Replantation is the reattachment of a severed limb. Michigan Medicine has done several successful replantations—and is well prepared to take the next step in donor limb reattachment. The surgical aspects of hand transplant are very similar to hand replantation.

How is a hand transplant different from other transplants?

A hand transplant is different from a solid organ transplant because it involves several tissues, skin, muscles, tendons, bones, cartilages, fat, nerves and blood vessels. And most solid organ tarnsplants are inside the body such as kidney and liver transplants.

What are the benefits of hand transplant surgery?

A hand transplant can greatly improve the quality of your life. Hand transplant recipients report that they are able to engage more fully in family activities, work and personal hygiene. For example, they can grasp objects, ride a bicycle, use the telephone and write.

What are the risks of a hand transplant?

Any kind of surgery presents risks. Transplant patients run additional risks, including difficulty following the strict medication dosing that is necessary after the operation, swings in emotions or rejection of the transplanted limb. There is also an added risk of developing infections, problems with kidneys or cancers.

What is the alternative to a hand transplant?

The alternative to a hand transplant is a prosthesis, an artificial device used to replace a missing body part, such as a limb.

I have a prosthesis. Can I still be a candidate for a hand transplant?

If you are functionally satisfied with your prosthesis, you are not a candidate for hand transplantation.

How long would I have to wait for a hand transplant?

Once you are approved for the transplant, you would have to wait for a matching donor to become available, which could be anytime from a few days to several months or years.

How would I pay for the hand transplant?

If you are accepted for the University of Michigan Hand Transplant program, most of your expenses, such as pre-operative care, surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation, will be covered by  insurance. Patients are responsible for the cost of medication and therapy following a successful transplant and must have adequate insurance coverage, or a financial plan in place, to afford continued access to medications and ongoing therapy.

What happens after surgery?

The University of Michigan has specialized in all aspects of post-transplant care for nearly 50 years. Every day, our Transplant Center helps our patients and their families with the unique social, medical, surgical and financial challenges associated with transplant. We will be here for you.

Why is Michigan qualified to do hand transplants?

We were there at the beginning from the beginning.  In 1964 a kidney transplant was the first transplant performed at the University of Michigan and in the State.  1n 1968 the first heart transplant in the State took place at U-M and since then patients and their families have celebrated many other firsts.  Now we are once again taking the lead in Michigan and giving hope new life.

Our 50 years of experience with transplant surgeries, combined with our expertise in specialty hand surgery and microsurgery, make us the perfect candidates for creating a hand transplant program. We understand the unique needs of transplant patients and the importance of treating the whole individual by offering a full range of services, including pre- and post-surgical care, financial counseling and physical rehabilitation.

Our ultimate goal is providing our patients with greater independence, better mobility and an improved quality of life.