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News Releases

World’s Most Successful Hand Transplant Recipient Returns to Kleinert Kutz/Jewish Hospital for Check-Up

For Immediate Release: 3/2/2012

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – Matthew Scott, the world’s most successful hand transplant recipient and the first person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, returned to Louisville yesterday for his yearly check-up on Thursday, March 1, 2012.

Medical history was made 13 years ago on January 24-25, 1999, when Scott received his new left hand, an event that has greatly impacted the future of both transplantation and reconstructive surgery around the world. The 14 ½ hour innovative procedure was performed at Jewish Hospital by Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgerysurgeons.

During his visit, Scott met with Marion, Indiana resident Ronald Thurman, the eighth and latest patient to receive a hand transplant by the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center team of surgeons at Jewish Hospital part of KentuckyOne Health. Thurman is receiving an intense physical therapy regiment that will help him gain function in his new right hand. 

Thurman’s hand transplant took place during a 15 ½ hour procedure on Wednesday, February 15, 2012. At 56 years old, he is the oldest patient to receive a transplant from the Louisville team.

“Therapy is a key component to gaining hand function,” said Joseph Kutz, M.D., partner with Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and director of the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery. “Ron’s therapy sessions will help improve the functional outcome of the procedure.”

Dr. Kutz, co-investigator of the Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft (VCA) Program said, “Matt has been the ideal patient and has proven that hand transplantation is a successful procedure. I would hope to see it as a standard of care in the future. He made medical history 13 years ago becoming the world’s most successful hand transplant recipient. His transplant opened up transplant and plastic surgery to a whole new level. Matt and Ron will have plenty to talk about over the weekend.”

Michael Marvin, M.D., chief of transplantation, Jewish Hospital, associate professor, University of Louisville and also a co-investigator of the Louisville VCA program said, “We do not anticipate any issues with Matt’s health during his check-up. His overall health has been great and he does not have any significant complications from his immunosuppression drug therapy.”

Marvin added, “We continue to monitor our latest patient, Ron Thurman, for signs of rejection, adjust medication levels and his overall health.”

I’m pleased to be returning for my lucky 13,” said Scott. “It’s nice that I can come to town while Ron is here and we can talk about our experiences as well.”

“I lost my hand eight years ago and I never dreamt I would have a hand again,” said Thurman. “I’m very pleased with everything so far. I couldn’t be happier. This is just fabulous, everything they are doing with this program.”

A New Jersey native, Scott is an instructor at Camden County College. He can use his transplanted hand for everyday living activities, and says, “It’s the small things in life that you miss the most and I am so glad to have them back – like opening a door, making change with money, holding my two sons’ hands, or being able to clap to cheer for them.”

Scott lost his dominant left hand on December 23, 1985, in a blast from an M80 firecracker accident.

Thurman is a self-employed farmer from Marion, Indiana. He injured his right hand in a farming accident in November 2003 when his hand was caught in a combine/auger. His right hand was amputated at the wrist, nine inches below the elbow. He had a low-elbow prosthesis prior to the surgery. 

Three years ago, this VCA team, which includes surgeons and researchers from the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand & Microsurgery, Jewish Hospital, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and the University of Louisville, was the only group in the United States performing hand transplants. Now a number of centers are performing not only hand transplants, but face transplants as well. A total of 24 hands and four faces have been transplanted in the U.S.

The Louisville VCA team has performed hand transplants on a total of eight patients.

  • Matt Scott from New Jersey – January 24-25, 1999
  • Gerald David Fisher from Michigan - February 17, 2001
  • David Savage from Michigan - Nov. 29, 2006
  • Dave Robert Armstrong from California - July 12, 2008.
  • Jan "Erik" Hondusky from New York - November 24, 2008
  • Richard Edwards from Oklahoma – August 24, 2010 (double hand transplant)
  • Donnie Rickelman from Indiana – July 10, 2011
  • Ronald Thurman from Indiana – February 15, 2012

Each patient was placed on one or more immunosuppressive drugs at a reduced dosage to lower the risks associated with the anti-rejection medication. Those risks include a higher incidence of cancer, infections and other disorders.

Kentuckiana Organ Donor Affiliates(KODA) coordinated the donation of the hands and worked very closely with the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization for some of them. LifeGift in Texas, arranged for Thurman’s hand donation.

Without the help of these organ procurement agencies and the donor families, these procedures could not have taken place.

Kentuckians can join the Kentucky Donor Registry online at People who live outside of the state of Kentucky can visit www.donatelife.netfor state specific donor registry information.

In addition, all but the first two hand transplants performed by the Louisville VCA team were sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further research in the vascularized composite allograph program.


About the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery

Named in honor of Dr. Kleinert's mother, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery (CMKI) is a world-renowned nonprofit education and research organization funded by the Kleinert-Kutz Endowment for Education and Research in Hand and Micro Surgery. The physicians of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center teach the next generation of hand surgeons through CMKI’s accredited fellowship program, which is cooperative effort with the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Fellows are fully trained plastic, orthopedic, or general surgeons from around the world who come to Louisville to get additional training in hand and micro surgery. To date, more than 1,200 physicians from 58 countries have served as Fellows. Dozens of research projects refining surgical techniques, testing new devices and pushing the frontiers of basic and clinical science in the field of hand surgery are currently underway. CMKI also provides patient rehabilitation services after surgery and patients recovery services without surgery through the Hand Therapy Center and Orthotic Care Center. For more information, please visit or call (502) 562-0310.

About Jewish Hospital

Jewish Hospital is an internationally renowned high-tech tertiary referral center developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, home care, rehab medicine (including sports medicine), orthopaedics, neuroscience, occupational health, organ transplantation and outpatient and primary care. Site of the world’s first successful hand transplant, the world’s first and second successful AbioCor® Implantable Replacement Heart procedures, and world’s first trial of cardiac stem cells in chronic heart failure, the hospital is also federally designated to perform all five solid organ transplants – heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.

About the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center

Kleinert Kutz is one of the largest hand care programs in the world, pioneering achievements in hand and microsurgery, research, therapy and orthotics. The 13 physicians of Kleinert Kutz offer expertise in orthopedic and plastic surgery and provide comprehensive care for the hand and arm. Kleinert Kutz’s significant achievements include the nation’s first five hand transplants, one of the world’s first cross-hand replantations, pioneered work in primary reconstruction using free tissue transfer and national award for research in blood flow to the nerve. For more information, please visit or call (502) 561-4263.

About Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA)

Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) is dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. KODA is an independent, non-profit organ and tissue procurement organization and was formed to establish a statewide educational and procurement network. KODA serves 114 counties in Kentucky, four counties in southern Indiana and two counties in western West Virginia. The KODA service area includes 112 hospitals, three transplant centers and a multicultural population of four million. For more information about KODA visit

About the University of Louisville

The University of Louisville is Kentucky's metropolitan research university, with 22,000 students attending classes at 11 colleges and schools on three campuses. Bordered by its many medical partners, UofL's downtown Health Sciences Center is home to more than 3,000 students pursuing degrees in health-related fields with the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as 14 interdisciplinary centers and institutes.

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Lori Eberenz


Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare Kleinert Institute Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center University of Louisville School of Medicine