Duke introduces hand transplant – first in North Carolina

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Duke Medical Center John West - Staff Photojournalist

Duke Medicine launched a hand transplant program, the first in North Carolina.

The Duke program is part of a clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of hand transplantation for patients who have lost one or both limbs below the elbow. The trial will also test the effectiveness of a new drug, belatacept, in preventing rejection of the transplanted hand.

Unlike solid-organ transplantation, hand transplantation involves several different types of tissues, including skin, muscle, tendon, bone, cartilage, fat, nerves and blood vessels, according to the UCLA School of Medicine. The surgery can last as long as 12 hours.

“People who have lost one or both hands face significant challenges in daily life,” said Dr. Linda Cendales, who heads Duke’s hand transplant program. “It’s difficult to perform activities of daily living and routine tasks that most of us take for granted. Hand transplantation improves quality of life.” Continue reading