Nation's First Face Transplant Done in Cleveland
Reconstructive surgeon Dr. Maria Siemionow of Cleveland Clinic has just finished the nation's first near-total face transplant - 80% of the patient's face - with that of a dead female donor.
The first partial face transplant was done in France three years ago on a woman who was mauled by a dog. Two others have been done since then - in China, someone attacked by a bear, and a European man disfigured by a genetic condition.
The nature of the injuries or disfigurement that prompted the Cleveland case are not yet known. Such transplants are controversial, because they are aimed at improving a patient's quality of life rather than saving it, and require recipients to take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their life.
"It is very important what kind of recipient they selected," and how great the need was, said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which plans to offer face transplants too.
"There are patients who can benefit tremendously from this," he said. "It's great that it happened. It is a major move forward. Hopefully it will open the door both to the public and to other centers" wanting to offer such transplants, Pomahac said.
The patient's name and age have not been released. The hospital plans a news conference on Wednesday.
Burn and severe trauma patients have long needed better options, but "the ethics are really controversial" for face transplants, said Dr. Jeffrey Guy, director of the Burn Center at Vanderbilt University.
There's an interesting article on howstuffworks.com detailing the history of transplants, and the pictures and story of the first face transplant by a donor in France in 2005.