LouisvilleKY’s Hand Transplant Recipient Celebrates 20th Anniversary


LOUISVILLE, Ky.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Matthew Scott, the recipient of the world’s most successful hand transplant and the first person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, will celebrate the 20thanniversary of the history-making procedure today at a reception.

Scott became a 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 requiring 18 medical professionals 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 the 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. Unlike solid organ transplants, hand transplants require the reconnection of multiple tissues, including skin, muscle, bone, tendon, and more. Some controversy has surrounded this type of transplantation because the procedure requires otherwise healthy patients to take immunosuppressant drugs, making them more vulnerable to diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

Matthew Scott, who made history in 1999 as the world's most successful hand transplant recipient, receives an exam at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY, from Dr. Christina Kaufman, executive director of the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery, during a press conference. (Photo: Business Wire)
Matthew Scott, who made history in 1999 as the world’s most successful hand transplant recipient, receives an exam at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY, from Dr. Christina Kaufman, executive director of the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery, during a press conference. (Photo: Business Wire)

“We cannot overstate how gratifying it is to reach this milestone with Matt,” said Christopher Jones, MD, Lead Transplantation Physician, Jewish Hospital Transplantation Program Director, and Transplant Surgery Division Chief at University of Louisville Physicians – Transplantation Surgery and the UofL School of Medicine. “Not only has Matt’s life been immeasurably enriched through this procedure, but his dedication to keeping his new limb healthy has allowed us to prove that this type of transplantation can be successful, and has paved the way for others to receive this life-changing procedure.”

A New Jersey native, Scott is the director of the EMT and paramedic school operated by his employer, Virtua Health. The 57-year-old father of two can use his transplanted hand for everyday living activities, such as dialing a phone, drinking from a glass, turning door knobs, and more. Scott lost his dominant left hand on December 23, 1985, in a blast from an M80 firecracker accident.

“I am fortunate to have been part of this historic surgery and witnessed Matt’s progress over the last 20 years. He has paved the way for other hand transplants and inspired me every step of the way,” said Tuna Ozyurekoglu, MD, Lead Reconstructive Surgeon; President, Christine M. Kleinert Institute; Partner, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center. “The functionality of his hand today is a result of his amazingly positive attitude, compliance with medical advice and the continued dedication of this hand care team.”

Since the surgery, Matt has become an ambassador for hand transplantation, and has dedicated his time to meeting with potential transplant recipients and speaking at medical and amputee conferences, and is a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing VCA committee.

“I was fully aware of the risks of the surgery back then, but I don’t think I grasped just how my new hand would change my life, and by extension, the lives of the hundreds of other patients and their families,” said Scott. “I will be forever grateful for what that team of surgeons, nurses, therapists, orthotists, pharmacists and so many others did for me, and for the way their innovation and professionalism continues to resonate around the world.”

Since Scott’s procedure in 1999, 200 hand transplantations have been performed on more than 140 patients worldwide, and many of the physicians performing these life-changing procedures were trained right here in Louisville. The majority of the 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 the field of vascularized composite allotransplantation. The Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation pledged $1.5 million to continue the program.

Kentucky 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 www.donatelifeky.org People who live outside of the state of Kentucky can visit www.donatelife.net for state specific donor registry information.

NOTE: Additional historical b-roll and still photos are available at: www.handtransplant.com.