Human hand allograft: report on first 6 months

Lancet. 1999 Apr 17;353(9161):1315-20. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(99)02062-0.


Background: Long-term survival of animal limb allografts with new immunosuppressant combinations and encouraging results of autologous limb replantations led us to believe that clinical application of hand transplantation in human beings was viable.

Methods: On Sept 23, 1998, we transplanted the right distal forearm and hand of a brain-dead man aged 41 years on to a man aged 48 years who had had traumatic amputation of the distal third of his right forearm. The donor's arm was irrigated with UW organ preservation solution at 4 degrees C, amputated 5 cm above the elbow, and transported in a cool container. We dissected the donor limb and the recipient's arm simultaneously to identify anatomical structures. Appropriate lengths of viable structures were matched. Transplantation involved bone fixation, arterial and venous anastomoses (ischaemic time 12.5 h), nerve sutures, joining of muscles and tendons, and skin closure. Immunosuppression included antithymocyte globulins, tacrolimus, mycophenolic acid, and prednisone. Maintenance therapy included tacrolimus, mycophenolic acid, and prednisone. Follow-up included routine post-transplant laboratory tests, skin biopsies, intensive physiotherapy, and psychological support.

Findings: The initial postoperative course was uneventful. No surgical complications were seen. Immunosuppression was well tolerated. Mild clinical and histological signs of cutaneous rejection were seen at weeks 8-9 after surgery. These signs disappeared after prednisone dose was increased (from 20 mg/day to 40 mg/day) and topical application of immunosuppressive creams (tacrolimus, clobetasol). Intensive physiotherapy led to satisfactory progress of motor function. Sensory progress (Tinel's sign) was excellent and reached the wrist crease (20 cm) on day 100 for the median and ulnar nerves, and at least 24 cm to the palm by 6 months when deep pressure, but not light touch sensation, could be felt at the mid palm.

Interpretation: Hand allotransplantation is technically feasible. Currently available immunosuppression seems to prevent acute rejection. If no further episode of rejection occurs, the functional prognosis of this graft should be similar to if not better than that reported in large series of autoreconstruction.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine
  • Allopurinol
  • Amputation, Traumatic / surgery
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forearm / surgery
  • Glutathione
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Hand Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin
  • Male
  • Microsurgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Preservation
  • Organ Preservation Solutions
  • Organ Transplantation / rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Raffinose
  • Time Factors
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Insulin
  • Organ Preservation Solutions
  • University of Wisconsin-lactobionate solution
  • Allopurinol
  • Glutathione
  • Adenosine
  • Raffinose