Background: Composite tissue allotransplantation (CTA) is a newly emerging field of transplantation that involves the simultaneous transfer of multiple tissues with differing antigenicity. Hand transplantation, the most widely recognized form of CTA, aims to improve function and the quality of life of upper limb amputees. Methods: In 1999, an institutional review board-approved hand transplantation protocol was implemented at the Jewish Hospital, University of Louisville. Suitable patients were evaluated and underwent hand transplantation. The surgical technique was akin to that used in limb reimplantation, and the immunosuppression protocol used was similar to renal transplantation. Results: Between 1999 and 2006, 3 patients underwent hand transplantation at our center. Although episodes of acute rejection were seen in all patients during the early postoperative period, only 1 immunologic event occurred after the first year. Graft function improved with time period. Carroll test scores were superior to those recorded with a prosthesis at the end of 1 year. Additionally, recovery of protective sensation was seen in all 3 patients and limited discriminatory sensation in 2. Complications related to immunosuppression have included cytomegalovirus infection in 2 patients, diabetes in 1, hyperlipidemia in 2, and osteonecrosis in 1. At a follow-up of 8, 6, and 1 year(s), all the recipients are healthy and have returned to a productive life. Conclusions: The long-term success reported here should encourage wider application of the CTA in general and hand transplantation in particular. Methods of minimizing long-term immunosuppression need to be pursued.
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