Hand Transplant Rejection

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 9:34am

Double hand transplant patient hopes ultrasound equipment is the key to keeping his new hands for good.

First he lost complete blood flow to his right hand, then a major rejection episode in both hands. Despite set backs, double hand transplant patient Rich Edwards is eternally optimistic.

With his typical bog smile, double hand recipient Rich Edwards settles in for what is now typical testing.

Richard Edwards says "this is an example of how serious they are about their program."

For all hand transplant patients at the Jewish Hand Care Center.

Dr. Christina Kaufman of the Christine M. Kleinert Institute says "we were able to purchase this with Department of Defense funds."

$280,000 to buy an ultrasound device capable of detecting potential rejection.

Dr. Kaufman says "we saw him in March and everything was fine. He looked great, and then a month later it was a disaster."

It was the team's fourth hand transplant patient Dave Armstrong. They amputated the hand, just nine months post transplant.

Dr. Kaufman says "it was very very scary when what happened to Mr. Armstrong happened. And we realized that we were doing this. We were blind. We were absolutely blind."

But with this, ultrasound biomicroscopy. They can now see what's believed to be rejection at the earliest stages.

Dr. Kaufman says "that's really what we got this machine for. So we could see that white line and follow changes."

With 1,000 times the resolution of traditional ultrasound, they can measure this white line. It's smooth muscle around the artery. In armstrong it thickened and blocked bloodflow.

Dr. Kaufman says "now that didn't happen overnight. If we caught that early enough we may have been able to intervene."

The ultrasound on Rich.

Dr. Kaufman says "see how there's that little thickening."

Shows one small area they'll track.

Rich says "they use it religiously on all the guys and they're going to catch any little abnormality."

He suffered blood flow loss before the first test and will lose the tips of his right thumbs and pinky but describing his hand before badly burned in a vehicle fire.

Rich says "they wouldn't straighten. Nor would they bend."

He's now brushing his teeth, combing his hair counting each blessing.

His wife's too.

Rich says "Cindy's had a huge break the last 2 or 3 weeks. I can now feed myself with a regular fork the entire meal. Who am I to be this fortunate? This blessed? But I am thankful."
 

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