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News Releases

Region’s First Double Hand Transplant Recipient is Taken Back into Surgery at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center

For Immediate Release: 9/8/2010

Louisville, Kentucky – Dr. Richard “Rich” Edwards was taken back into surgery just two weeks after becoming the region’s first double hand transplant recipient and the third in the U.S. The second surgery took place on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010, to restore blood flow, being blocked by clots, to the right hand.

A team of surgeons from Kleinert Kutz and the University of Louisville performed the first surgery on the 55 year-old Oklahoma resident during a 17 ½ hour surgical procedure August 24-25, 2010 at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center.

During the bilateral surgery, his right hand required a skin graft and the healing of that soft tissue was progressing well.   “Before last night’s surgery, our patient was able to make a partial fist with his right hand, something that we’ve only seen in patients that are six months out from surgery.” said Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D, with Kleinert Kutz.  “Yesterday, blood flow had stopped to the right hand, therefore requiring a return to the operating room. The patient looks good.”

“We revascularized the hand which had developed blood clots,” Breidenbach added.  “We also have a skin coverage problem that may require further surgery soon.  The burned skin covering the vessels is of poor quality and may need to be replaced.”

His left hand continues to show improvement. Edwards can move his wrist and each finger and can make nearly a full fist with his left hand.

Edwards’ wife Cindy asked everyone to keep Rich in their prayers as he fights the battle to keep his new hands.

Edwards continues to be closely monitored and is back in Jewish Hospital.  He was originally discharged on Friday, Sept. 3.  The double hand transplant recipient’s post-surgery treatment continues to include an immunosuppressant drug regimen of four medications for anti-rejection, including steroids. He is expected to be in Louisville for continued monitoring, and hand therapy sessions for 3-4 hours each day with one of his three therapists.
Edwards made his living as a chiropractor before losing both hands when his truck caught fire on February 11, 2006.  Unable to escape the burning vehicle, he was severely burned on his face, back, arms and hands, leaving very little tissue left in both hands.

Since his injury, Edwards had multiple reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts, but remained with very little hand function.  He requires assistance with all activities of daily living and is nearly completely dependent on his wife and others for help.

The Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program is a partnership of physicians and researchers at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, Kleinert Kutz, and the University of Louisville. The group developed the pioneering hand transplant procedure and has performed five other hand transplants since 1999.  Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates coordinated the hand donation for the team’s hand transplant procedures.

The hand transplant is sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further research in the composite tissue allotransplantation program.
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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