Recipient of first hand transplant procedure in North Carolina recuperates after surgery

Rene Chavez
Posted by Duke Chronicle on 09/23/2016

Posted by via Duke Chronicle on 09/15/16

ASHT member Jodi Moore says the recipient of North Carolina's first hand transplant was "the perfect candidate" and is doing well following the May surgery.

Recipient of first hand transplant procedure in North Carolina recuperates after surgery
By Ailing Zhou — September 15, 2016
Duke Chronicle
Photo of Rene Chavez and Dr. Linda Cendales by Shawn Rocco (Courtesy of Duke Photography) 

The patient who received the first hand transplant in North Carolina history at Duke University Hospital in May is recovering successfully.

A team led by Dr. Linda Cendales, associate professor of surgery at Duke University School of Medicine and director of the hand transplant program, performed the surgery on 54-year-old Rene Chavez, who lost his left hand in a childhood accident at age four. During the 12-hour operation, the skin of the patient’s residual limb was opened, and tendons, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins and bones from both the patient and the donor limb were dissected and their ends connected. Jodi Moore, a certified hand therapist working with Chavez, said that he has been doing very well since the surgery May 27.

"[The success has been] huge," she said. "He was the perfect candidate for Duke's first [hand transplant]."

Hand transplantation is a type of vascularized composite allotransplantation therapy, which transplants tissues such as skin, bone and muscle to reconstruct defects that one's own tissue cannot repair.

The hand transplant program at Duke is partially funded through a partnership with the Department of Defense, as part of a greater effort to treat war injuries such as limb amputation.

For the first three months after the procedure, Chavez is required to stay in Durham for the team to follow up on his conditions.

“Mr. Chavez’s recovery is going as planned," Cendales said. "He continues to do well, and we have not experienced any unexpected events so far.”

Cendales said that the team is following a protocol approved by the Institutional Review Board at Duke that spans from the initial visit to the follow-up appointments afterward.