Philadelphia surgeons perform world’s first bilateral hand transplant on a child

The first pediatric bilateral hand transplant was recently performed by surgeons at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in collaboration with colleagues from Penn Medicine.

The team successfully transplanted donor hands and forearms onto an 8-year-old child who had undergone amputation of his hands and feet, as well as a kidney transplant, as a result of a serious infection, according to a press release from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

The team was led by L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Penn Medicine, director of the Hand Transplantation Program at CHOP and professor of surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“This surgery was the result of years of training, followed by months of planning and preparation by a remarkable team,” Levin said in the release. “The success of Penn’s first bilateral hand transplant on an adult, performed in 2011, gave us a foundation to adapt the intricate techniques and coordinated plans required to perform this type of complex procedure on a child. CHOP is one of the few places in the world that offer the capabilities necessary to push the limits of medicine to give a child a drastically improved quality of life.”

The patient, Zion Harvey, was initially referred to Shriners Hospital for Children and was evaluated as the possible recipient for a pediatric hand transplant through a coordinated effort between Shriners and CHOP. Harvey uses prostheses for his feet and hopes to be able to throw a football with his new hands.

Zion Harvey is the first pediatric patient to receive a bilateral hand transplant.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“The collaborative effort between these institutions was necessary to assemble the team and organize the players to orchestrate such a complex and demanding procedure that had never been performed on a child,” Scott H. Kozin, MD, chief of staff for Shriners Hospital for Children – Philadelphia, said in the release.

The donor was located through coordination with the Gift of Life Donor Program, a nonprofit organ and tissue donor program serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania as well as southern New Jersey and Delaware.

The surgical team — divided into four separate operating teams, two for each donor limb and two for the recipient — attached the hands and forearms from the donor by connecting bone, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and skin. Harvey spent a week post-surgery in CHOP’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and has moved to an inpatient rehabilitation unit, where he undergoes rigorous hand therapy several times each day. He is expected to spend several more weeks in CHOP’s rehabilitation unit and will be followed monthly and then annually by Levin and colleagues, according to the release.


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