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News Releases

Surgeon Provides Update on Region’s First Double Hand Transplant Recipient at Jewish Hospital

For Immediate Release: 9/13/2010

Louisville, Kentucky – Dr. Richard “Rich” Edwards, the nation’s third double hand transplant recipient, is back in the intensive care unit at Jewish Hospital after complications in his right hand resulted in surgery last week.

Dr. Warren Breidenbach, with Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center provided an update on Edwards’ condition on Monday, September 13 at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky.

Breidenbach, a partner at Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of Louisville led a team of surgeons from Kleinert Kutz, Christine M. Kleinert Institute, and the University of Louisville who 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.

“We had a scare last week during an examination prior to a routine therapy session when we discovered blood flow to the hand was blocked,” Breidenbach said.  “Any episode like this is never necessarily good for the hand.”

Edwards was taken back into surgery on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 to restore blood flow, being blocked by clots, to his right hand. Breidenbach said no definitive cause for the clots was determined, though many theories were considered.

After monitoring the temperature in the fingers on the right hand for several days, Breidenbach said preparations were made for a third surgery on Saturday. However, pre-operative examinations showed marked improvement and the surgery was canceled. 

Since Wednesday, Edwards has been in the ICU so that blood flow to his hand can be closely monitored.  Breidenbach expects to move Edwards from the ICU to a regular hospital patient room on the orthopaedic floor on Tuesday, September 14.

 Breidenbach had previously thought the burned skin covering the vessels may need to be replaced, but today said the team is hoping for no further surgeries for at least one year.

Edwards’ left hand continues to show improvement. He can move his wrist and each finger and can make nearly a full fist with his left hand. He continues to undergo physical therapy on his left hand, but will not have therapy on his right hand for approximately two weeks to allow for healing of the vessels repaired in the most recent surgery. Breidenbach said that statistically complications of this kind more than two weeks post-surgery are unusual.

“Unfortunately, this episode may downgrade the results with the right hand because of stopping therapy and the increased possibilities for scarring,” Breidenbach said. “However, I still think he’ll have better results than any patient to date.”

Edwards’ post-surgery treatment continues to include an immunosuppressant drug regimen of four medications for anti-rejection, including steroids.

Edwards worked 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.

Patient and physician information, photography and video are available at and  To watch the press conference, click here.

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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