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News Releases

World’s Most Successful Hand Transplant Recipient Celebrates 14th Anniversary

For Immediate Release: 1/23/2013

Louisville, Ky.— Matthew Scott, the world’s most successful hand transplant recipient and the first person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, celebrates his 14th anniversary today.

Scott was part of medical history on January 24-25, 1999, when he 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, part of KentuckyOne Health, by surgeons from Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery.  The transplant was part of the Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft program (Louisville VCA Program).

The Louisville VCA program was started to prove that transfer of a hand and/or arm could be a treatment alternative for patients who had lost a limb in the same way a kidney or heart can be replaced in patients who need a new organ.

“We have been able to show over nearly 14 years that, with utilization of the same drugs used for organ transplants, we can obtain longstanding salvation of working organs such as the hand for patients like Matt who is able to use his transplanted hand in activities of daily living,” said Joseph E. Kutz, M.D., co-investigator of the Louisville CTA program.

Initial controversy existed that hand transplantation placed a relatively healthy patient in a potential position to develop diabetes, cancer, and other diseases secondary to the use of immunosuppression drugs. Scott had diabetes at the time of his transplant, but he has been able to maintain his hand and maintain the level of his diabetes without any adverse problems secondary to immunosuppression drugs. 

“In our transplant program, we continue to examine the patient’s laboratory studies and monitor the vascularity of the transplant and nerve regeneration on a monthly basis,” said Kutz.  “Matt has proved to be an outstanding subject who has continued to improve the survivability of his transplanted hand and continue to function well with his hand.  Therefore, the door has been opened to this procedure, which previously was considered unethical 14 years ago.”

“A New Jersey native, Scott is the director of the EMT and paramedic school operated by his employer, Virtua Health. He can use his transplanted hand for everyday living activities. Scott lost his dominant left hand on December 23, 1985, in a blast from an M80 firecracker accident.

“The success Matt has had with his transplant for such a prolonged period of time is a reflection of his compliance and dedication to keeping himself and his transplanted limb healthy,” said Michael Marvin, M.D., chief of transplantation, Jewish Hospital, associate professor, University of Louisville and also a co-investigator of the Louisville CTA program.  “He is an outstanding example of the benefits that transplantation can bring to those with devastating injuries."

“Fourteen years ago, the hope was that my new hand would last a year, but the transplant team prepared me to accept that it might not last six months,” said Scott. “Then the one-year anniversary came and I was thrilled, along with the team.  When the second anniversary arrived, another major milestone was passed and as the anniversaries of the third, fourth, fifth years and so on came and went, it became undeniably clear that hand transplant can be, and is, successful.”

The Louisville CTA 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

The majority of the hand transplants performed by the Louisville CTA team were sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further study the vascularized composite allograph program.  The Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation recently pledged $1.5 million to continue the program.

Kentuckiana Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) coordinated the donation of the hands and worked very closely with the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization and LifeGift in Texas. 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 for state specific donor registry information.

Matt Scott (left) is greeted by surgeon Joe Kutz, MD

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. The physicians of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center teach the next generation of hand surgeons through CMKI’s accredited hand surgery 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 59 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, a part of KentuckyOne Health, is an internationally renowned high-tech tertiary referral center developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, cancer care, home care, rehab medicine, 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 in the select group that performs heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation.

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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Barbara Mackovic
Senior Manager

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