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Face Transplant

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.