WESTWOOD—UCLA performed the first hand transplant surgery in the western United States on March 5. The successful surgery took 14 1/2 hours to complete, according to a UCLA news release.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center surgeons performed the surgery on a 26-year-old mother from Northern California, who lost her hand in a car accident about five years ago.

This was the 13th hand transplant surgery performed in the United States, but the first to take place west of the Rockies. UCLA is one of only four medical centers in the nation to have performed this type of operation.

The surgery began with two teams of surgeons who prepared the limbs for attachment, and at 4:30 a.m., four hours after the operation commenced, doctors joined the donor and recipient limbs. By 2:30 p.m., all tendons, blood vessels and nerves were attached.

Upon completion of the extensive surgery, the patient was brought back to her room where she now remains in recovery, and in preparation for extensive physical rehabilitation and anti-rejection medication, in order to prevent infection.

The donor’s hand size, color and hair pattern were almost identical to the recipient’s, providing the perfect condition for transplant, according to lead surgeon Dr. Kodi Azari,surgical director of the UCLA Hand Transplant Program and associate professor of orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The surgery was a result of the generosity of the donor’s family, who worked together with LifeSharing, a nonprofit organization at UC San Diego that serves in organ and tissue recovery.

The patient’s progress will be carefully monitored, and doctors plan to study how her brain interacts with her new hand.

The UCLA Hand Transplant Program strives to better the lives of those who have suffered the loss of hands or arms, and is funded through both UCLA’s transplantation and reconstructive surgery services.

For more information on this program, visit transplants.ucla.edu/.