Kidney transplants, heart transplants and corneal transplants are all established treatment options for patients with failing organs, but the University of Michigan Health System is taking surgical transplantation one step beyond. The organization recently announced that it would become the first in Michigan to institute a hand transplantation program for those with missing or damaged hands.
Hand Transplant History
Hand transplantation is still a relatively rare procedure—only seven programs in the United States will even attempt it, and results have been inconsistent. Though hand transplantation is not a new procedure, surgeons haven’t seen much success with them until about 15 years ago. Until that time, immunosuppressive drugs and surgical techniques were not advanced enough to provide consistent and quality results.
Today, surgical techniques for hands have progressed to the point where hand transplantation has become a viable treatment option for people of all ages. Hand transplants are complex procedures, yet they can provide a natural sensation of feeling and touch not possible with prosthetic options. This can be very effective at improving the quality of life of transplant patients.
Give Them a Hand
The institution of this program is encouraging for the future of transplant surgery. There are many complex aspects to human anatomy that make any type of transplant challenging, but the organization’s commitment to the process will likely accelerate developments in the field and improve the outcome for patients who aren’t satisfied with artificial hands. While the procedure will likely need research before it can be offered at a global level, every medical organization that pledges itself to the process is a step in the right direction.