PITTSBURGH – A man who underwent the first double hand transplant in the United States was recovering Tuesday at a hospital.
Jeff Kepner, who lost his hands and feet to a bacterial infection 10 years ago, underwent surgery lasting just under nine hours Monday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where a team of surgeons worked on each hand simultaneously, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Kepner, 57, was being monitored Tuesday in the transplant intensive care unit and was listed in critical but stable condition, which is what doctors had anticipated, spokeswoman Amy Dugas Rose said.
Rose did not have information about the donor. The hospital was expected to release more details later this week.
Kepner, a Lancaster, Pa., native who lives in Augusta, Ga., told the Sunday News of Lancaster before his surgery he was looking forward to holding his 13-year-old daughter, who was 3 when he lost his hands and feet.
His surgery was done using a technique developed at UPMC called the Pittsburgh Protocol, which aims to reduce the amount of toxic medication that must be taken to suppress the immune system so the body doesn't reject the new hands. The toxic medication can lead to an increase in the risk for diabetes, infections and other complications, doctors say.
Under the protocol, Kepner was given antibodies the day of the transplants and will be given bone marrow from the hand donor over the next several days. Instead of a variety of anti-rejection medications, he should have to take just one.
Eight double hand transplants have been performed abroad. Last month, French physicians performed the world's first simultaneous partial face and double hand transplant.
Five U.S. hand transplants have been done at Jewish Hospital Heart and Lung Center of Louisville, Ky.
In March, UPMC performed its first hand transplant, on a Marine who lost his right hand when a quarter-stick of dynamite blew up in it during a training exercise in Quantico, Va.
The first U.S. hand transplant was performed in January 1999, on a New Jersey man who lost his hand in December 1985 in an M-80 firecracker blast.
The first hand transplant was done in Ecuador in 1964, but the patient's body rejected the hand after two weeks.