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JRSM Short Rep. 2012 Oct;3(10):74. doi: 10.1258/shorts.2012.011178. Epub 2012 Oct 26.

History and ethics of hand transplants.

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Hull York Medical School , York, Hull HU6 7RX , UK.


Hand transplantation is a form of composite tissue allotransplantation, whereby the hand of a cadaveric donor is transferred to the forearm of an amputee. The aim of such a procedure is to achieve better outcomes in terms of functionality and appearance when compared with prosthetics. The microsurgical techniques required have been well established for many years. In addition, advances in immunosuppressive therapy have meant that hand transplantation is a feasible therapeutic option. However this is not a life-saving procedure, requiring lifelong antirejection treatment with potentially serious side-effects. Hand transplantation is therefore a controversial concept with ethical, financial and psychological implications that need careful consideration. Before this treatment can be fully accepted, further research is still required; this should be directed towards achieving immunological tolerance, while minimizing costs and potential side-effects of post-transplant therapy.

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