Debut of World’s 1st Total Face Transplant

The Spaniard who had one of the world’s first total face transplants has appeared in public today to thank the donor and surgeons who operated on him.  The photo below appeared today in the UK’s The Sun.

The face transplant, this time for a man that blew his face off in an accidental shotgun blast.  London’s Daily Mail reports that a new total face transplant has been performed by a plastic surgery team lead by Dr. Joan Pere Barret in Barcelona.   This is cosmetic surgery in its most extreme form.   Face transplants to date have been partial replacements of soft tissue (skin, fat, muscle).   This stunning new operation involves the entire face soft tissue and the underlying bone, extending the usefulness of the surgery for more extensive deforming facial defects.

Still in its infancy, face or external tissue transplants represent the logical extension of internal organ transplants.   The technical aspects of harvesting the necessary tissue from a donor, then followed by reattachment to the recipient, are well-established techniques.   The tricky part is management of the anti-rejection drugs after the surgery.   These powerful drugs suppress the natural immune functions of the body.   Unfortunately, they have serious side effects like cancer, diabetes and uncontrollable infections.

Patients with such deformities, usually from trauma or injury, are able to actually survive with the disfigurement, but most often they experience difficulty coping due to their self-consciousness and embarrassment about their looks.   It is human nature to turn away when presented with such horrible disfigurement, causing feelings of being shunned by victims.   Social interactions obviously are limited for victims, but are the dangers of such surgery worth the risk?   The jury is still out for these experimental surgeries.   Only time will tell as these patients weigh the improvement in life quality against the morbidity and complications of the anti-rejection drugs.

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