News Releases

News Releases

Fourth Recipient Continues to Gain Strength in New Hand

For Immediate Release: 9/12/2008

LOUISVILLE, KY – Dave Robert Armstrong, the nation's fourth hand transplant recipient, continues to gain strength in his new right hand and has no signs of rejection, just two months following the innovative procedure. The medical team from the University of Louisville and Kleinert, Kutz & Associates performed the 14-hour surgical procedure on July 12, 2008 at Jewish Hospital.

Armstrong is able to perform bicep curls with a four pound weight, exercise his wrist with a three pound weight and forearm with a two pound weight.  He can perform small tasks such as dealing cards, place pegs in a hole and play paddle ball.

Armstrong continues to wear brace on his new hand to allow the hand to heal and control the movement of his hand and fingers during therapy. He spends two hours a day in therapy sessions and then performs more therapy on his own time.

Kleinert Institute Physical Therapist Anne Hodges says “Dave is highly motivated and pushes himself to do more everyday.  Everything is progressing.  Strength, endurance and function all continue to improve every week.”

“Biopsies have been performed on Armstrong’s transplanted hand on a weekly basis and have shown no signs of rejection,” says lead transplant surgeon Kadiyala Ravindra, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at University of Louisville. “Dave continues to be on a lower level of drugs than any of our other three patients hand transplant recipients.” The team of physicians continues to look for ways to reduce the risk of taking the immunosuppressive drugs to lower the risk of the experimental procedure.

“Dave is making excellent progress.  At this stage, he continues to do better than our previous hand transplant recipients,” says lead hand transplant surgeon Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D., Kleinert Kutz & Associates. “We anticipate he will be leaving Louisville in the next three to six weeks to return home to California.

“Only in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine that this would be possible. It is a lot of work, but worth it in the end with the function I am gaining everyday,” says Armstrong.”

The 18-member team that performed Armstrong’s hand transplant included surgeons from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates, the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, as well as a two-member team from Anesthesiology Associates and Medical Center Anesthetists. Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, an organ procurement organization, coordinated the donation of the hands for both recipients. The group of surgeons performing the innovative procedure also performed the world’s first successful hand transplant in 1999, the nation’s second in 2001 and the nation’s third in 2006. To date, there have been a total of 39 hands transplanted on 31 patients around the world.

The fourth U.S. 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.

Information, high resolution photography and streaming video are available on our web site at or The photos and B-roll provide surgery footage, give a first glimpse of the patient's new hand, and a recent therapy section. B-roll is available upon request. Note - streaming video on the web is not broadcast quality.

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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