U-M Health System Launches Hand Transplant Program, Seeks Candidates

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The University of Michigan Health System has launched a hand transplant program, the first of its kind in the state, and is actively seeking adult candidates for the life-altering surgery.

“Regaining an arm or hand can vastly improve the quality of life of a patient, allowing them to do daily tasks,” says Dr. Kagan Ozer, surgical director of the new program. “We believe hand transplantation can be a great option to help people who haven’t had success with other options like prosthetics.”

Ozer says the program is seeking adult candidates between 18 to 65 for the surgery. Hand transplants are part of the university’s new vascular composite allograft program, which refers to transplants involving skin, muscle, and bone. The field of transplantation also includes the face and abdominal walls.

“Recipients say it makes a tremendous difference in their quality of life,” Ozer says. “They can grasp, touch, and most importantly feel objects. Restoration of sensation is currently not possible in other methods of reconstruction.”

He says hand transplants have been performed in the United States for about 15 years, but there are only seven programs nationwide that offer the transplants. More than 100 hand transplants have been done worldwide. About 540,000 people in the United States live with an upper limb loss. 

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