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News Release: Nation's Third Successful Hand Transplant Performed at Jewish Hospital

For Immediate Release: 11/30/2006

Jewish Hospital, University of Louisville, and Kleinert Kutz team performs nation’s third successful hand transplant on Nov. 29

LOUISVILLE, KY – David F. Savage, a 54-year-old Bay City, Michigan resident, joined a group of select men to become the nation’s third hand transplant recipient on Nov. 29, 2006. A special news conference was held today (Nov. 30) at 11 a.m. (EST), to announce the completion of another landmark hand transplant surgery.

The procedure, which began at approximately 3:10 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Nov. 29, lasted 15 hours and involved a 34-member hand surgical team and a five-member anesthesiology team. The recipient is listed in stable condition at Jewish Hospital, based in the Louisville Medical Center. The group of surgeons performing the innovative procedure also performed the world’s first successful hand transplant in 1999 and the nation’s second in 2001. Kentuckiana Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) coordinated the donation of the hands for all three recipients.

A partnership of physicians and researchers at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, Kleinert Kutz and the University of Louisville developed the pioneering procedure. Warren C. Breidenbach, III, M.D., with Kleinert Kutz and assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of Louisville, lead the surgical team. Kadiyala V. Ravindra, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of Louisville, will manage the immunosuppressive therapy for the patient.

A hand transplant, unlike a solid organ transplant, involves multiple tissues (skin, muscle, tendon, bone, cartilage, fat, nerves and blood vessels) and is called composite tissue allotransplantation.

Savage, a Means Industries production supervisor, injured his dominant right hand more than 30 years ago in a work-related machine press accident. Savage’s amputated hand was replaced with a cable hook prosthesis.

 “In Mr. Savage’s case we ran into one problem – connecting the arteries,” Breidenbach said. “The arteries appeared small and led to problems getting blood to the hand. David’s amputation happened 32 years ago and no one has attempted to operate on an amputated arm 30 years later.”

“We have felt entirely comfortable with our abilities and directions from the very beginning, but we gain experience with each surgery,” he added. “We continue to refine the process as we go.”

“I also want to express my gratitude to the donor family,” Breidenbach added, “without whom this transplant would not have been possible.”

After surgery, Savage was placed on a combination of immunosuppressive drugs at a reduced dosage to lower the risks associated with the anti-rejection medication. Those risks include a higher incidence of cancer, infections and other disorders. Dr. Ravindra said, “Savage will be monitored on a regular basis for signs of rejection with weekly biopsies. He will also be monitored with a number of other laboratory tests and evaluations as needed.”

An orthotist and hand therapist will begin bracing and hand therapy within the next few days. Savage will be hospitalized at Jewish Hospital for the next seven to 10 days and then will remain in the Louisville area for three months.

Before going into surgery, Savage’s wife, Karen, said, “I’m looking forward to a two-handed hug.”

A partnership of physicians and researchers at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, the University of Louisville and Kleinert Kutz developed the composite tissue allotransplantation program. The pioneering hand transplant procedure has greatly impacted the future of transplantation and reconstructive surgery. In October 2004, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) announced a $2.5 million contract award from the Department of the Navy to Jewish Hospital, U of L and Kleinert Kutz for further research into the composite tissue allotransplantation program.

Complete press packets including b-roll and still photography of the physicians and patient are available to the media at the briefing. Information, photography and video are also available on our web site at and # # #



David F. Savage  


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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