The first successful hand transplantation in the United States was performed in January of 1999, and since that time there have been more than 50 patients worldwide who have benefited from this innovative procedure. Recipients of hand transplants have had restoration of critical hand functions but, more importantly, have regained the important sense of touch, something that a prosthetic cannot provide.
Hand transplant patients have to be on medications throughout the remainder of their life in order to prevent their immune system from rejecting their new hands. These medications can have many side effects and compromise the immune system, but they have been well tolerated. For many patients, the side effects have been transient or reversible.
It is with these successes that reconstructive transplantation has now expanded from the hand to include the face, abdominal wall, and even lower-extremity transplantation.