Total face transplant by surgeons in Spain

by John Gever

Surgeons in Barcelona announced on Friday that they had performed the most extensive face transplant yet reported, including skin, muscles, teeth, and some bone.

The procedure was performed March 20 by a team of 30 surgeons at Vall D’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona.

Doctors led by Joan Pere Barret, MD, took 24 hours to transplant an entire face from the hairline to the neck and extending laterally to near the ears, according to information released at a press conference.

The recipient, described only as a Spanish man between 20 and 40 years old, had most of his face destroyed in a 2005 gun accident. Nine previous attempts at surgical reconstruction had failed to restore his ability to eat, breathe, or talk normally.

Besides the extensive skin graft, the transplant involved the nose, upper and lower jaw bones, teeth, cheekbones, and facial muscle tissue.

No information about the donor was reported.

Hospital officials said the man had undergone psychiatric evaluations before the transplant to confirm that he could cope with an entirely new face.

They said that, a week after the procedure, he asked to see himself in a mirror and indicated he was satisfied.

Doctors said he has scars on his forehead and neck that would fade with time. He is not yet able to eat or talk but Barret told reporters that he should be able to do so within a few weeks.

The man is expected to remain hospitalized for another month.

The transplant was substantially more extensive than the previous record-holder, involving an Ohio woman receiving a transplanted nose, cheek structure, upper lip, orbital bone, and other tissues in the central face in late 2008. She retained her own forehead, lower lip and chin.

John Gever is a MedPage Today Senior Editor

Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.com for more plastic surgery news.

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