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In an operation that lasted several hours, a woman who had lost her nose, lips, and chin in a vicious dog attack has received the world’s first face transplant. The controversial surgery was performed in France, and involved the tissues, muscles, and arteries from a braindead patient’s face.
This operation was the first of its kind in the world, and if the patient’s body doesn’t reject the skin, she will not look like she used to look, nor will she look like her donor, but somewhere in between. Hopefully she will also regain her ability to speak and eat properly, which she has been unable to do since the attack. But because skin is so prone to rejection, she will have to take high levels of immunosupressants for long periods of time, perhaps for the rest of her life. These drugs increase the risk of disease and cancer.
From the BBC article:
“And there is the possibility that the donor would then carry on breathing.”
Stephen Wigmore, chair of British Transplantation Society’s ethics committee, said: “The extent of facial expression which will occur in the long term is unknown.
“The skin tends to promote rejection by the immune system very strongly and immunosuppression is likely to need to be kept at high levels for prolonged periods of time.
“It is not clear whether an individual could be left worse off in the event that a face transplant failed.”
Mr Michael Earley, a member of the Royal College of Surgeon’s facial transplantation working party, said: “If successful, this is a major breakthrough in facial reconstruction.
Following the operation, the graft appeared to be normal, but only time will tell.