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Doctors tweet rare double hand transplant

/ Source: The Associated Press

Doctors performed a rare double hand transplant on a burn victim who is recovering Wednesday after the nearly 18-hour surgery.

The transplant at a Louisville hospital was only the third in the nation. Jewish Hospital also performed the world's first successful single hand transplant in 1999.

Doctors started the operation at 7 p.m. Tuesday and finished 17½ hours later on Wednesday afternoon. A doctor outside the operating room posted updates on Twitter.

"We have a long way to go to know ... but it looks good at this point," said Dr. Joseph Kutz, a member of the surgery team. The patient was identified only as a man whose hands had been severely burned.

Lead surgeon Dr. Warren Breidenbach said doctors were able to put some of the patient's existing nerves into hands from a donor. He said that could give the man more sensation than past transplant patients who had lost their hands. This patient still had his hands, which were replaced in the surgery.

The first two U.S. double hand transplants were performed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Several others have been done elsewhere, and even more single hand transplants have been performed.

As surgeons worked, a doctor outside the operating room tweeted updates.

"Surgeons are now preparing the arteries. This will be the most important part of the operation," the doctor tweeted at 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Jewish Hospital Medical Campus President Marty Bonick said the patient's spouse was thrilled when the family got a call that hands from a donor had been found.

"They were hoping and praying for it to happen," Bonick said.

The hands came from the same donor, but no other information was released.

Doctors said the patient is expected to spend about three months in Louisville recovering and undergoing extensive rehabilitation.