Man Receives World’s Most Extensive Face Transplant

Patti MayonnaiseNovember 18, 2015746 Views
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The surgeons at New York University’s Langone Medical Center have performed the world’s most extensive face transplant. The medical school’s dean Robert Grossman referred to the operation as “a major milestone and a critically important contribution to the advancement of science and medicine.”

Image via NYU Langone Medical Center

Image via NYU Langone Medical Center

 
The transplant recipient is a 41 year old firefighter from Mississippi who suffered severe facial injuries after a burning roof collapsed and fell onto him melting through his mask in 2001. Patrick Hardison was admitted to the New York medical center earlier this year in order to be given the face of a brain dead 26 year old man. The donor David Rodebaugh was left in a vegetative state after a cycling accident.
Since the skin is an organ much like any other, the match was determined based upon compatible height, weight, skin tone, hair color and blood type. These factors are crucial to consider as the patient’s potential immune response to the foreign tissue could prove dangerous. In fact, there are a large percentage of cases in which the patient’s body rejects the organ. These transplant procedures are failures.

Photo Credit: NYU Langone Medical Center

Photo Credit: NYU Langone Medical Center

The operation took about 26 hours with more than 100 people working diligently in two teams. Before the new face was connected to his deeper facial structures through the attachment of many nerve endings, bones and blood vessels, Hardison’s original facial scarring had to be cut away. Following the operation, doctors embarked the patient on a life long plan of immunosuppressant pills to prevent rejection. Lead surgeon Eduardo Rodriguez told Hardison that his chances of surviving the procedure were 50/50, making the wait rather difficult for both Hardison and his family and the team.

Image via NYU Langone Medical Center

Image via NYU Langone Medical Center

Rodriguez told Hardison, “You have to remove the old face to the bare bones. You have to understand: If it were to fail, there is no bailout option. You would likely die. This is a procedure that is all or none.” There have been a minimum of three other patients around the world receiving facial implants who passed due to immune system rejection.
Luckily, 93 days after the operation Hardison is thriving. Six months from now, he should be able to eat normal food and have improved speech. A follow up operation next year should cut down on some of the extra facial tissue to improve appearance. After Hardison’s accident, he couldn’t look at his reflection in the mirror. However, he has already been to Macy’s to purchase clothes donning his new face without his prior anxiety.

 

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