J Korean Med Sci.  2021 Jan;36(2):e6. 10.3346/jkms.2021.36.e6.

Process of Obtaining Social Consensus and 3-Year Functional Outcomes of the First Hand Allotransplantation in Korea

  • 1W Institute for Hand & Reconstructive Microsurgery, W General Hospital, Daegu, Korea
  • 2Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Yeungnam University College of Medicine, Daegu, Korea
  • 3Division of Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yeungnam University College of Medicine, Daegu, Korea
  • 4Department of Pathology, Yeungnam University College of Medicine, Daegu, Korea


On February 2, 2017, the surgical team of ten board-certified hand specialists of W Hospital in Korea successfully performed the nation's first hand transplantation at Yeungnam University Medical Center (YUMC). This paper reports on the legal, financial, and cultural hurdles that were overcome to open the way for hand transplantation and its functional outcomes at 36 months after the operation.
W Hospital formed a memorandum of understanding with Daegu city and YUMC to comply with government regulations regarding hand transplantation. Campaigns were initiated in the media to increase public awareness and understanding. With the city's financial and legal support and the university's medical cooperation, a surgical team performed a left distal forearm hand transplantation from a brain-dead 48-year-old man to a 35-year-old left-handed man.
With this successful allotransplantation, the Korean Act on Organ Transplantation has now been amended to include hand transplantation. Korean national health insurance has also begun covering hand transplantation. Functional outcome at 36 months after the operation showed satisfactory progress in both motor and sensory functions. The disabilities of the arm, shoulder, and hand score were 23. The final Hand Transplantation Score was 90 points. Functional brain magnetic resonance imaging shows significant cortical reorganization of the corticospinal tract, and reinnervation of intrinsic muscle is observed.
Hand transplantation at the distal forearm shows very satisfactory outcomes in functional, aesthetical, and psychological aspects. Legal and financial barriers against hand transplantation have long been the most burdensome issues. Despite this momentous success, there have been no other clinical applications of vascularized composite allotransplantation due to the limited acceptance by Korean doctors and people. Further public education campaigns for vascularized composite allotransplantation are needed to increase awareness and acceptance.


Hand Transplantation; Social Consensus; Functional Outcome; Korea
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