The Hand Transplant Program at Boston Children's Hospital is a research study that has been reviewed and approved by Boston Children's Institutional Review Board. It is the first pediatric hand transplant program in the world.
Hand transplants are a new medical procedure, most of which are being done as part of research protocols. The first hand transplant in the United States was performed in 1999, and since then over 50 have been done on adults worldwide. To date, there have been no transplants from a donor to a genetically different pediatric patient.
The Hand Transplant Program is being performed under a research protocol which will evaluate the safety and efficacy of hand transplantation in children. Data will be collected on patients who receive a hand transplant as part of this study to measure the outcomes of the procedure and the patients' progress. Patients enrolled in the study will be followed for 10 years or longer.
Boston Children's Hospital has one of the largest pediatric transplant centers in the country. Our transplant team has extensive experience with solid organ transplants and immunosuppression. This strength, along with our renowned hand surgery and rehabilitation team, research capabilities and pediatric background gives us a unique opportunity to offer this experimental procedure to children who may benefit from it.
About Hand Transplants
During a hand transplantation procedure, hands are recovered from a deceased donor and attached to a living recipient. It's an experimental reconstructive procedure, that when performed successfully, and followed by appropriate rehabilitation, may offer an opportunity to improve the quality of life of the recipient.
Hand transplants present unique challenges not seen in most organ transplants. First, the loss of a hand or hands is not life-threatening, so the decision to have a hand transplant cannot be made lightly; each case must be considered very carefully. This is a serious medical procedure that comes with significant risks; each individual considering participation in this research study must discuss the risks in detail with the principal investigator and research staff.
And unlike other transplants, in which the transplanted organ automatically functions when placed in the recipient, a hand transplant recipient must undergo extensive physical therapy to gain as much functionality as possible. This rehabilitation may take years.
As with any other transplant, after patients receive a new hand they must take immunosuppression medications for the remainder of their lives--or as long as the hands are in place--which will keep their immune systems from attacking the new organ.
Despite these challenges, the medical field's experience with adult hand transplants, along with constantly evolving transplant techniques, have laid important groundwork for Boston Children's specialists.
Because hand transplantation is an experimental procedure, doctors need to be very selective when finding candidates who meet the criteria for the study. Although each patient will be assessed individually, certain guidelines for eligibility and exclusion in Boston Children's Hand Transplant Program will be followed. Boston Children's hand transplant principal investigator is currently looking for patients who
- are in good overall health
- are between 10 and 25 years of age
- have, for one or more years, been: 1) missing both hands 2) missing one hand but are already on immunosuppression medication for a functioning solid organ transplant 3) missing a hand but the other hand is poorly functioning
Because there is a good deal of follow-up care and monitoring, in addition to the eligibility criteria above, we request that patients live in or near Boston or be willing to relocate for at least 6 months post-transplant. If your child fits the description above and you are interested in learning more about the hand transplant study, please contact us. Our team will then set up a consultation to decide if screening your child for the hand transplant study is appropriate. Please call 1- 877-TX4-PEDS to speak with our Hand Transplant Program Coordinator.