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Nation’s Third Double Hand Transplant Recipient Continues to Show Progress at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center

For Immediate Release: 9/2/2010

Double hand transplant recipient Dr. Rich Edwards addresses the media at a press conference at Jewish HospitalLouisville, Kentucky – Dr. Richard “Rich” Edwards, the nation’s third double hand transplant recipient, continues to show significant progress in both hands, including better than anticipated movement.  A team of surgeons from Kleinert Kutz and Associates and the University of Louisville performed a double hand transplant on the 55 year-old Oklahoma resident during a 17 ½ hour surgical procedure August 24-25 at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center.

In both hands, Edwards can move his wrist and each finger. He can make nearly a full fist with his left hand and a partial fist on the right.  His right hand required a skin graft and the healing of that soft tissue is progressing well.

“This is the best motion of any hand transplant patient we’ve ever done.  This is the result you would expect at six months,” said Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D, with Kleinert Kutz & Associates, who led a team of 20 hand surgeons to perform the bilateral hand transplants.  “This is a breakthrough transplant.  This is the first time a transplant has been done where we have allowed a patient’s tissue to remain within the new hands. We connected the tendons from the donor hand to the recipient hand since neither was damaged.  By using the recipient’s tissue, we have opened up new opportunities.”

Edwards and his wife, Cindy, discussed the groundbreaking procedure for the first time publicly today during a news conference at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky.

“I feel fantastic,” Edwards said. “I feel very blessed and thankful to have new hands.  I am so thankful I had a team of doctors who were allowed to think outside the box.”

Edwards made his living as a chiropractor before losing both hands when his truck caught fire on February 11, 2006.  Unable to escape the burning vehicle, he was severely burned on his face, back, arms and hands, leaving very little tissue left in both hands.

Since his injury, Edwards had multiple reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts, but remained with very little hand function.  He requires assistance with all activities of daily living and is nearly completely dependent on his wife and others for help.

“This donor family has given us a second lease on life,” said Cindy Edwards.  “I cannot thank them enough. We will continue to always pray for them.  What I look forward to most is getting my husband back, his personality back and getting our life back together.”

Edwards is expected to leave the hospital tomorrow, but will remain in Louisville for several months for long term therapy.

Edwards’ post surgery treatment includes an immunosuppressant drug regimen, which is being overseen by Michael Marvin, M.D., chief of transplantation, Jewish Hospital/University of Louisville.  Dr. Marvin said Edwards is being treated with four medications for anti-rejection, including steroids, which he will continue taking for several months.

 “He is tolerating all medications well at this time,” Dr. Marvin said.
The surgical team included six hand surgeons, 15 hand fellows and a number of anesthesiologists and surgical operating staff.

“We are lucky to have a team of dedicated and talented physicians that not only made this transplant happen, but are working so that it will remain successful,” said Marty Bonick, president/CEO of Jewish Hospital Medical Campus. “It is brave individuals, like Dr. Edwards, who help move medical innovation forward by being willing to be pioneers.”
The Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program is a partnership of physicians and researchers at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, Kleinert Kutz & Associates, and the University of Louisville. The group developed the pioneering hand transplant procedure and has performed five other hand transplants since 1999.  Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates coordinated the hand donation for the team’s hand transplant procedures.

The hand transplant is sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further research in the composite tissue allotransplantation program.
“The brilliant physicians from the transplant team mean so much to the Louisville community and to medical science,” said Congressman John Yarmuth.  “Their work will benefit many of our servicemen and women returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Patient and physician information, photography and video are available at and, or here

Press conference excerpt:  Dr. Richard “Rich” Edwards, the nation’s third double hand transplant recipient answers questions from the media.

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Barbara Mackovic
Senior Manager

Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare Kleinert Institute Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center University of Louisville School of Medicine