US clinic plans first face transplant

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

US doctors are to interview 12 patients with a view to performing the first ever transplant of a human face.

The Cleveland Clinic will choose between seven women and five men to find the person most suited for the experimental procedure, which is a radical and controversial solution to extreme facial scarring or disfigurement.

Having practiced the procedure on bodies donated for medical research, the Cleveland Clinic team believe they have a 50% chance of success. The procedure will not live up to science-fiction predictions and give the recipient the appearance of the donor; the underlying bone structure is the deciding factor in the final appearance. The new face will end up resembling neither the donor nor recipient.

Surgeons in several other countries have announced being ready to perform this procedure in the past. However, the risk and non life-threatening nature of disfigurement have meant that gaining approval for the groundbreaking surgery has been difficult. Like many other transplant operations, the recipient would be required to take drugs to prevent tissue rejection for the remainder of their life. These drugs can have side effects and carry their own risks involving the patient’s immune system.

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