Sometimes injuries from motor vehicle accidents, fires, explosions or gun violence are so severe that the limb must be removed (amputated) to avoid further injury or infection. Typically, patients who have had amputations are fitted with a prosthetic (artificial) limb. While newer prosthetic limbs offer a greater range of motion, better fine motor regulation and the capacity to handle more weight, they cannot offer the full functionality of a natural limb. Patients fitted with prosthetic arms miss the sense of touch and the feedback that touch provides. They lack the natural sense of where the limb is in space. As a result, many upper extremity amputees stop wearing their prosthetic arms after just a few years.
Since 1999, nearly 60 hand transplant have been completed worldwide, including transplant of both arms (bilateral upper-extremity) in the United States and Germany. The recipients of these transplants have experienced excellent return of functionality, including the ability to write, work and hold hands with loved ones.
While these outcomes are very encouraging, transplant is not without risk: All transplant patients need to take medications to suppress their immune systems, to keep from rejecting their grafts. Some of these medications have side effects that are difficult to live with. The medications can have a significant cost associated with them that may not be reimbursed by insurance.
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If you have suffered a traumatic injury or illness and are interested in exploring reconstructive transplant as an option, please contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.