Spotlight: Dr. Catalano & The First Successful Face and Double Hand Transplant

Published on February 22, 2021 by

OrthoManhattan is a multi-specialty orthopedic surgery practice that brings together an outstanding group of experienced doctors and staff to comprehensively treat all of your musculoskeletal problems. Dr. Louis Catalano is a board certified, fellowship-trained hand and upper extremity orthopedic surgeon here at OrthoManhattan. 

About Dr. Louis Catalano

As a premier shoulder, hand, and wrist specialist, Dr. Catalano provides care to many musicians from both the NYC Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, as well as many Broadway actors and dancers. 

Dr. Catalano boasts over 20 years of experience in the field and serves as a Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, Director of the NYU Langone Hand Fellowship, and Attending Hand Surgeon at the Roosevelt Hand to Shoulder Center at OrthoManhattan. He is one of the founding surgeons of OrthoManhattan, and has been a tremendous asset since its inception 5 years ago. In today’s spotlight, we’re going to specifically focus on Dr. Catalano and the part he played in the first-ever successful face and double hand transplant.  

Dr. Catalano & The First Successful Face and Double Hand Transplant

In 2018, 22-year old Joe DiMeo was burned on 80% of his body in a tragic car accident. Skip forward to a little over a year ago –  plastic surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, told Joe that a face and double hand transplant was his best chance at regaining independence. This set into motion one of the most difficult surgeries to execute, with over 20 doctors and over 50 nurses training for a total of 15 months to prepare for the procedure. 

The surgery involved taking a fresh cadaver face and both forearms and transplanting them to Joe. In order to find a matching donor, they searched for 15 months to find a young man whose blood type, size, and coloring matched Joe’s. The surgical team trained one full-day Saturday a month for the entire 15 months to prepare, with the practice sessions first taking place on cadavers in the cadaver lab and then moving into the operating rooms they would eventually perform the surgery in. 

With Dr. Catalano’s specialty being in the upper extremities, his role in this surgery was to attach the forearm bones and tendons of the cadaver to the patient. This part of the surgery took a total of about 18 hours, with the entire surgery lasting approximately 26 hours. The biggest risks involved with Dr. Catalano’s part included infection or rejection of the tissues leading to possible failure of the newly attached hands. Thankfully, Joe has healed more rapidly than expected and has already started physical therapy! 

This surgery has been attempted twice in the past, both times the procedure was unsuccessful. Joe DiMeo’s surgery is the first-ever face and double hand transplant to be performed successfully at the same time. All of us at OrthoManhattan are extremely proud of Dr. Catalano for his key role in this groundbreaking surgery. We’d also like to recognize the other orthopedic hand surgeons, 14 plastic and microsurgeons, 6 anesthesiologists, and 50 nurses that worked hard together to make this surgery a success!

To learn more about the world’s first successful face and double hand transplant, read NYU Langone Health’s article here.

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