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World’s Most Successful Hand Transplant Recipient Celebrates 20th Anniversary

For Immediate Release: 3/5/2019


For More Information:
David McArthur, Senior Manager, Media Relations
502.587.4230 or 502.648.3411

World’s Most Successful Hand Transplant Recipient Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Louisville, Ky. (March 5, 2019) — Matthew Scott, the recipient of the world’s most successful hand transplant and the first person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the history-making procedure today at a reception.

Scott became a part of medical history on January 24-25, 1999, when he received his new left hand, an event that has greatly impacted the future of both transplantation and reconstructive surgery around the world. The 14 ½ hour innovative procedure requiring 18 medical professionals was performed at Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, by surgeons from Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery.  The transplant was part of the Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft program (Louisville VCA Program).

The Louisville VCA program was started to prove that the transfer of a hand and/or arm could be a treatment alternative for patients who had lost a limb in the same way a kidney or heart can be replaced in patients who need a new organ. Unlike solid organ transplants, hand transplants require the reconnection of multiple tissues, including skin, muscle, bone, tendon, and more. Some controversy has surrounded this type of transplantation because the procedure requires otherwise healthy patients to take immunosuppressant drugs, making them more vulnerable to diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

“We cannot overstate how gratifying it is to reach this milestone with Matt,” said Christopher Jones, MD, Lead Transplantation Physician, Jewish Hospital Transplantation Program Director, and Transplant Surgery Division Chief at University of Louisville Physicians - Transplantation Surgery and the UofL School of Medicine. “Not only has Matt’s life been immeasurably enriched through this procedure, but his dedication to keeping his new limb healthy has allowed us to prove that this type of transplantation can be successful, and has paved the way for others to receive this life-changing procedure.”

A New Jersey native, Scott is the director of the EMT and paramedic school operated by his employer, Virtua Health. The 57-year-old father of two can use his transplanted hand for everyday living activities, such as dialing a phone, drinking from a glass, turning door knobs, and more. Scott lost his dominant left hand on December 23, 1985, in a blast from an M80 firecracker accident.

“I am fortunate to have been part of this historic surgery and witnessed Matt’s progress over the last 20 years. He has paved the way for other hand transplants and inspired me every step of the way,” said Tuna Ozyurekoglu, MD, Lead Reconstructive Surgeon; President, Christine M. Kleinert Institute; Partner, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center. “The functionality of his hand today is a result of his amazingly positive attitude, compliance with medical advice and the continued dedication of this hand care team.”

Since the surgery, Matt has become an ambassador for hand transplantation, and has dedicated his time to meeting with potential transplant recipients and speaking at medical and amputee conferences, and is a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing VCA committee.

“I was fully aware of the risks of the surgery back then, but I don’t think I grasped just how my new hand would change my life, and by extension, the lives of the hundreds of other patients and their families,” said Scott. “I will be forever grateful for what that team of surgeons, nurses, therapists, orthotists, pharmacists and so many others did for me, and for the way their innovation and professionalism continues to resonate around the world.”

Since Scott’s procedure in 1999, 200 hand transplantations have been performed on more than 140 patients worldwide, and many of the physicians performing these life-changing procedures were trained right here in Louisville. The majority of the hand transplants performed by the Louisville VCA team were sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further the field of vascularized composite allotransplantation. The Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation pledged $1.5 million to continue the program.

Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) coordinated the donation of the hands and worked very closely with the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization and LifeGift in Texas. Without the help of these organ procurement agencies and the donor families, these procedures could not have taken place.

Kentuckians can join the Kentucky Donor Registry online at People who live outside of the state of Kentucky can visit for state specific donor registry information.

About the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery
Named in honor of Dr. Kleinert's mother, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery (CMKI) is a world-renowned nonprofit education and research organization. The physicians of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center teach the next generation of hand surgeons through CMKI’s accredited hand surgery fellowship program, which is cooperative effort with the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Fellows are fully trained plastic, orthopedic, or general surgeons from around the world who come to Louisville to get additional training in hand and micro surgery. To date, more than 1,200 physicians from 59 countries have served as Fellows. Dozens of research projects refining surgical techniques, testing new devices and pushing the frontiers of basic and clinical science in the field of hand surgery are currently underway. CMKI also provides patient rehabilitation services after surgery and patients recovery services without surgery through the Hand Therapy Center and Orthotic Care Center. For more information, please visit or call (502) 562-0310.

About Jewish Hospital
Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health Louisville Region, is an internationally renowned, high-tech tertiary referral center, developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, orthopedics and sports medicine, neuroscience, organ transplantation and outpatient care. The hospital is the site of the world’s first successful hand transplant and AbioCor® implantable replacement heart procedures, in addition to the first trial of adult cardiac stem cells in chronic heart failure. Jewish Hospital continues to be recognized for its specialized heart care procedures, including the implantation of ventricular assist devices (VAD), and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). The Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center is in a select group of hospitals nationwide that perform heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation. The center also includes a Pancreas Disease Center, a GI Motility Clinic, and Advanced Heart Failure and Ventricular Assist Device programs. Jewish Hospital services may also be accessed throughout the community at multiple freestanding outpatient/ambulatory/emergency care centers, as well as through the Healthy Lifestyle Center located on the downtown medical campus.

About the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center
Kleinert Kutz is one of the largest hand care programs in the world, pioneering achievements in hand and microsurgery, research, therapy and orthotics. The 13 physicians of Kleinert Kutz offer expertise in orthopedic and plastic surgery and provide comprehensive care for the hand and arm. Kleinert Kutz’s significant achievements include the nation’s first five hand transplants, one of the world’s first cross-hand replantations, pioneered work in primary reconstruction using free tissue transfer and national award for research in blood flow to the nerve. For more information, please visit or call (502) 561-4263.

About Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA)
Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) is dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. KODA is an independent, non-profit organ and tissue procurement organization and was formed to establish a statewide educational and procurement network. KODA serves 114 counties in Kentucky, four counties in southern Indiana and two counties in western West Virginia. The KODA service area includes 112 hospitals, three transplant centers and a multicultural population of four million. For more information about KODA visit

About the University of Louisville
The University of Louisville is Kentucky's metropolitan research university, with 22,000 students attending classes at 12 colleges and schools on three campuses. Bordered by its many medical partners, UofL's downtown Health Sciences Center is home to more than 650 medical and dental residents, 3,000 students pursuing degrees in health-related fields with the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as 14 interdisciplinary centers and institutes.


NOTE: Additional historical b-roll and still photos are available at:


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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