A 21-year-old female gunshot victim has a new face after a team from the Cleveland Clinic conducted an extensive face transplant to repair damage she sustained as a teenager. As of now, the reconstructive surgery was a success and the patient is healing well.
This was the clinic’s first total face transplant, (and third overall), which consisted of the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw, half of the lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, and 100 percent of facial muscles and facial skin, a statement released by the Cleveland Clinic reported. The operation took 11 surgeons and specialists to complete, and lasted for 31 hours.
Recovery from the operation will be intense, as the patient will need to undergo physical, speech, swallowing, and occupational therapy. However, the complete facial transplant will allow the young patient to be able to speak more clearly as well as breath, chew, and swallow easier. She will need to take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of her life so that her body does not reject her new face. However, following a long recovery process, the young patient will also be able to make facial expressions, and have better social function, which in turn may lead to improved mental health, doctors said.
The patient received her extreme injuries following a gunshot to the face as a teenager, but in order to protect the privacy of the patient and her family, no other information has been released.
“With a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids and jaw, she now has the full opportunity to re-integrate into society and have a future just like any other young adult,” said Dr. Brian Gastman, a surgeon involved in the operation, in a recent statement. “This surgery can give her back the self-esteem and confidence she lost.”
The Cleveland Clinic conducted their very first facial transplant earlier this year on a 32-year-old man who lost his face due to a self-inflicted gunshot more than 10 years ago. The blast destroyed his jaw and nose. Before the operation, doctors rehearsed more than 30 times over the course of more than 50 hours using 3-D prints of the patient’s face, Fox News reported.