Latest hand transplant surgery involves UofL Physicians

Published on February 16, 2012

Ronald Thurman, a Marion, Ind., farmer, became the latest patient to receive a hand transplant at Jewish Hospital on Feb. 15, 2012.

At 56 years old, Thurman is the oldest patient to receive a transplant from the Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft Program team made up of surgeons and researchers from Jewish Hospital, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and University of Louisville Physicians (ULP).

Joseph Kutz, M.D., partner with Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and director of the Kleinert Institute, led a team of 24 hand surgeons and two anesthesiologists to perform the hand transplant during a 15 ½ hour procedure. Dr. Kutz, and Michael Marvin, M.D., director of Transplantation at Jewish Hospital and surgeon with ULP, are the co-investigators for the innovative procedure. Rosemary Ouseph, M.D., director of Clinical Transplantation and internal medicine physician with ULP, manages the patient’s immunosuppressive drug therapy, along with Dr. Marvin.

“It is a team effort,” Kutz said. “We worked in two-hour shifts throughout the night. We had a plan and we’re very happy as he seems to be doing well.”

Kutz said Thurman will have his new hand fitted for braces on Feb. 17, 2012, and begin physical therapy in a couple of days. He will remain under care in Louisville for several months.

“His hand looks good,” Kutz said. “Of course, we are a long way from knowing how well it will function, but he is doing well.”

Thurman is a self-employed farmer. 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.

Kutz said the team had been working with Thurman and listed him for a hand transplant about four weeks ago.

“It is because of donor families that we are able to do these surgeries and to give individuals the gift of two, functioning hands,” said Jenny Jones, director of education for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. If we didn’t have our donor families, we wouldn’t have any transplantation.”

The Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft Program team pioneered the hand transplant procedure and has been performing hand transplants since 1999, the longest in the United States. LifeGift in Texas, in coordination with the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, arranged the hand donation for the team’s eighth patient’s hand transplant procedure.