UCLA’s first hand transplant surgery goes well

The emergency entrance to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is seen on October 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
The emergency entrance to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is seen on October 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. David McNew/Getty Images

Doctors are providing details about a hand transplant surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center during the weekend. The operation was the 13th performed in the United States – but the first on the West Coast.

Knitting together the tiny nerves, blood vessels and muscles involved in a hand transplant required a small army of surgeons and nurses – and 14-and-a-half hours on Saturday. That medical army’s commanding general was Dr. Kodi Azari.

He’s an expert in orthopedic and plastic surgery; he’d been involved in four other hand transplant operations. Dr. Azari also directs UCLA’s Hand Transplant Program; this surgery was the experimental program’s first.

The 26-year-old Northern California woman who got the new right hand had lost her own in a traffic accident five years ago.

While she recovers, UCLA doctors will closely follow her progress – not just to make sure her body doesn’t reject the hand, but also to understand how she regains some function in it. She’ll undergo periodic brain scans so doctors can see which parts of her brain react as she tries to move the fingers of her new hand.

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