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Hand transplant patient learning to use new limb

transplanted hand
A brief look at the surgical process for hand transplantation
CNN's Dan Rutz reports: In Louisville Kentucky, a 37 year old parametic is making medical history.
Windows Media 28K 80K
March 5, 1999
Web posted at: 4:01 p.m. EST (2101 GMT)
From Senior Medical Correspondent Dan Rutz

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) -- As his doctor watches, Matthew Scott tries to flex his left hand -- the new one, the one he was missing for more than a dozen years.

"Fantastic. What can I tell you?" says Dr. Warren Breidenbach, who performed the groundbreaking January operation that replaced the stump of Scott's left forearm with the hand of a dead donor.

Scott, a 37-year-old paramedic, lost his left hand above the wrist in a fireworks accident 13 years ago. More than a month after the groundbreaking surgery at Louisville's Jewish Hospital, he has become the key player in a remarkable scientific experiment.

"I have to make this work," Scott said. "I can't sit back now and say, 'Hey, great I got a hand. Look at that."

Making it work involves the function of two dozen tendons, plus arteries, veins, nerves, muscles and skin meticulously joined by the 17 surgeons who participated in the transplant. Each was attached one at a time over 14-plus hours of surgery.

Now Scott has to go through two hours of intensive physical therapy and another three or four hours of exercise on his own, six days a week.

"We'd like to get as much hand function as possible, Breidenbach said. "We know it will not be normal, and Matt understands that. We need to emphasize that in the beginning."

Special braces in these first weeks, along with progressive flexing and strength exercises, could give Scott 85 percent of his normal hand and wrist function.

That outcome would be as good as the best outcome from hand reattachments that follow severe injury. But doctors say Scott may do even better, since both his arm and donor hand were healthy to begin with.

The operation, planned for more than a year, came four months after a similar hand transplant in France. Jewish Hospital researchers have approval for 10 hand transplants.

So far, about 200 have applied for what Matt Scott considers "the chance of a lifetime."

Hand Transplant

Hand-transplant recipient can wiggle fingertips
January 29, 1999
Transplant patient enjoys new hand; doctors watch progress
January 26, 1999
U.S. doctors perform first hand transplant surgery
January 25, 1999

Transweb: All About Transplantation and Donation
Jewish Hospital
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