Hand Transplant

What Is a Hand Transplant?

A hand transplant primarily refers to the transplantation of the hand and portions of the upper extremity from a deceased donor. It may also refer to the entire upper extremity, extending to where the shoulder and arm meet. This is referred to as an arm transplant. You may hear terms such as “below elbow” or “above elbow.” These refer to the degree of the amputation – whether it is below or above the elbow.

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.

UT Southwestern’s current transplant criteria is for bilateral (both) or unilateral (one) dominant hand and below-elbow amputees.

Our Services

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Hand Transplant Program is the first in the state of Texas, serving not only the Dallas-Fort Worth area and all of Texas but neighboring states, as well. We offer comprehensive care and an innovative operation for those who have suffered the loss of one or both upper extremities. The University-sponsored program is approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Multidisciplinary Team

Our multidisciplinary team includes:

  • Reconstructive hand surgery specialists such as plastic surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons
  • Transplant specialists such as transplant surgeons, transplant nephrologists, transplant infectious disease specialists, tissue typing and pathology specialists, anesthesiology and critical care specialists, and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists.

We also work in close cooperation with local organ procurement organizations such as Southwest Transplant Alliance and LifeGift.

Patient Eligibility Criteria

You must meet the following criteria to be considered for hand transplantation:

  1. Amputation is be below the elbow resulting in the loss of the dominant hand or both hands
  2. Be between 18 and 60 years old
  3. Have no serious co-existing medical (e.g., coronary artery disease, diabetes) or psychosocial problems, including alcoholism and/or drug abuse
  4. Have no chronic infections (e.g., hepatitis, HIV)
  5. Amputation was at least 9 to 12 months prior to consideration
  6. Have attempted a prosthetic
  7. Amputation cannot be congenital (birth defect)
  8. Be motivated to maintain a rigorous hand therapy program and to be compliant with the required medications.

What Are the Costs?

Although hand transplantation is not recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at this time and is considered research, financial support may be available through our IRB-approved study/program to cover the evaluation, surgery, inpatient stay, and up to a year of hand therapy at UT Southwestern. Our financial coordinators can review your insurance and explain the process.