Eleven surgeons from the Cleveland Clinic performed the center’s third face transplant, and its first total face transplant, according to a recent press release.
The patient was a 21-year-old woman who received a gunshot wound as a teenager and experienced severe facial trauma as a result. The transplantation procedure lasted 31 hours and was conducted in May 2017.
Components of the procedure included transplantation of the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw, half of the lower jaw, and all teeth, along with transplantation of facial muscles, skin and a partial transplantation of the nerves in the face.
After a review of the patient’s case, the clinicians determined that facial reconstruction would be insufficient to correct the trauma and restore her quality of life. The procedure demanded the team salvage blood vessels to be used for transplant. A rehearsal process was utilized, as was 3-D printing and virtual reality technology.
The patient is expected to have improved or restored ability to speak, breathe, chew, swallow and express emotions. Physiological and psychosocial improvements are also expected.
“Plastic surgery is about restoring form and function,” said Frank Papay, MD, chairman of the Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, said in the press release. “Function comes before form, and prior to the face transplant, this patient had extremely poor function and form. Our job in reconstruction is to weigh the risk vs. the benefit of doing face transplantation, and we felt the risk was well worth it to give this patient better function, better social form and, ultimately, a better life.” – by Rob Volansky
Disclosure: The surgery was supported by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. One clinician reports being the Principal Investigator of the prime contract to Rutgers University. The surgery was conducted under a subcontract from Rutgers University to the Cleveland Clinic. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.