Articles Posted in Face Transplant

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The Associated Press reported today that a Texas construction worker, whose face was completely disfigured by third-degree burns suffered when he fell into an electrical power line, successfully underwent the nation’s first full face transplant in a Boston hospital last week.

Dallas Wiens, 25, received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from a recently-deceased person. The operation was paid for by the United States armed forces, which is trying to learn more about how to help soldiers who suffer disfiguring facial wounds.

In March 2010, doctors in Spain performed the first full face transplant in the world on a farmer who was accidentally shot in the face, and could not breathe or eat on his own.

Wiens will not resemble what he used to look like, nor will he resemble the unidentified deceased donor. The result will be something in between, said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a plastic surgeon who led a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and other staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the 15-hour operation last week. As of today, Wiens was listed in good condition, and has even spoken to family members on the telephone already.

Wiens’ face was completely burned away after he came in contact with a power line while painting a church in November 2008. The transplant could not restore his sight, and some nerves were so damaged that he will probably have only partial sensation on the left side of his face and head.

Wiens’ grandfather said that “he could have chosen to get bitter, or he could have chosen to get better. His choice was to get better, and thank God that today he is.”

In fact, Wiens stayed motivated by the thought of being able to smile again, and to feel kisses on his face from his almost-four-year-old daughter. Wiens added that he also wanted the transplant because it gives hope to extremely disfigured people, rather than having to “look in the mirror and hate what they see,” he said. Wiens also hopes to become an advocate for facial donations, and he publicly thanked the donor family for their selflessness
The healing process is not even close to being over, however. Wiens will have to take medication forever to prevent rejection of the tissue that makes up his new face. He did not have insurance when he was injured, but Medicaid paid for the several surgeries before this one. Medicare will cover him from now on, under its disability rules.

To see several videos of Wiens all throughout his ordeal, right up to the present, click here.

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Face transplant is an advanced medical procedure that involves replacing part or all of the patient’s face with a donor (cadaver) face.

Face transplant can be a partial transplant in which only a section of the tissue is taken from the donor and given to the patient who is receiving it (recipient). It can be a full face transplant in which the entire face is transplanted or the face and the underlying scalp are transplanted. Face transplant is similar to other organ transplant in which the immune system may reject the transplant. The immune system will attack and destroy any tissue that it recognizes as foreign. Even if there is a match in tissue between the donor and recipient, there is still the possibility of rejection. Such patients will have to be on drugs that suppress the immune system for a long period of time. These immune suppressant drugs will increase the risk of infection. There are other risks involved in face transplant such as risks related to surgery like infection.

The world’s first partial face transplant was carried out in November of 2005 in France for a patient who had her face ravaged by her dog, the operation was successful, it took 15-hours and the patient is fine now. The donor of the face should be a person who is on life support who has brain death with no hope of recovering (the face tissue has to be viable receiving blood supply); this may be a concern as the family of the donor must be willing to turn off the life support machine.

The face features of a person depend on the skin and the underlying muscle and bone. The patient only receives skin from the donor. Therefore the person who receives a face transplant will not look exactly like the donor but his/her features will be a combination of his/her original features and the features of the donor. Having a different face can be emotionally traumatic; these patients may need counseling.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.