News Releases

News Releases


For Immediate Release: 12/14/2006

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY (December 14, 2007) – David Savage, the nation’s third successful hand transplant recipient, and his wife, Karen, talked to reporters earlier today at a Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center press briefing. David was also joined by Dr. Warren Breidenbach, the lead hand transplant surgeon; Dr. Kadiyala Ravindra, lead transplant surgeon, with responsibility for the patient’s immunosuppressant drug regimen; and Dr. Carolyn Burns, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare pathologist. 
David said, “I am amazed at how well it is working and how I feel.”   He then thanked the donor family for having the “courage to allow this to happen” and added “I will put it to good use.” 

The 54-year-old Bay City, Michigan resident, injured his dominant right hand more than 30 years ago in a work-related machine press accident.  David’s amputated hand was replaced with a cable hook prosthesis. 

After waking up from the 15-hour surgical procedure, on Nov. 30, David described how he felt about having a new hand.  “It was like waking up from a 32-year sleep.  It was like it was never gone.  We have waited a long time for this.”
His wife Karen added, “He told me the day I met him that he would have two hands someday.”
There have been a total of 35 hands transplanted on 29 patients around the world.  The Louisville team has performed the only three in the U.S.   The first was in 1999 on Matt Scott and the second, Jerry Fisher, in 2001.  Both lost their hands in fireworks accidents.
“Everything is on course and going exactly as expected with minimal problems,” said Dr. Breidenbach.  “He is doing better than the first two cases because of his type of injury.  Everything is happening because of the hard work of David and his physical therapist. Therapy takes place two-three hours a day, six days a week with a therapist and then he does therapy on his own.
He was fitted with a brace on Dec. 5 and began hand therapy to gain function in the new hand.  The bracing is used to support healing structures and to allow him to begin motion of his fingers and thumb.  He is also exercising his shoulder, elbow, forearm wrist and digits outside of the brace. 
“He has full movement of his shoulder and almost full range of motion in his elbow, says Dr. Breidenbach.  “He can rotate his forearm in the palm up and down with 50% range of full motion and can move his wrist in all directions.  David is bending and straightening his fingers and thumb with partial range of motion.”
Dr. Ravindra stated, “David is a great patient.  Hand transplant patients are easier to manage than other organ transplant patients because they are in such good health.”  Transplant patients are given a regimen of anti-rejection medications to prevent rejection of the organ or hand.  “We have not seen any rejection,” said Ravindra.  David is the first of the three U.S. hand patients to be placed on Campath to reduce or eliminate the use of steroids.
The two biopsies, smaller than a pea, taken from the hand and forearm, show no significant rejection,” said Dr. Burns.  “I like to see biopsies like this. He has perfectly normal skin tone.”

Drs. Ravindra and Burns will continue to monitor David 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.

David was released from the hospital on Dec. 8 and will remain in Louisville until around the end of February 2007. 
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. Kentuckiana Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) coordinated the donation of the hands for all three recipients.
Patient and physician information, photography and video are available on our web site at and   

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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