CLEVELAND, OH — The Cleveland Clinic completed its third face transplant, its first total face transplant, in May, and the hospital system released details on the procedure Tuesday. The 31-hour surgery was completed by a team of 11 surgeons.
The recipient of the transplant was a 21-year-old woman that suffered severe facial trauma after she was shot in the face as a teenager. The woman’s quality of life will be improved greatly by the procedure. The Cleveland Clinic says the woman should soon be able to speak more clearly, breathe more easily, chew and swallow more easily and better express emotions, using her face. The transplant should also help the woman’s physiological, psychological and social function, the hospital system says.
The doctors transplanted 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, facial muscles and skin, the Cleveland Clinic said in a statement. The surgery effectively replaced 100 percent of the woman’s facial tissue. (To stay up to date on local stories, subscribe to the Patch Cleveland newsletter. As news breaks and the story develops, you will be the first to receive updates from Patch.)
“Knowing this patient now has the opportunity to live a functional life because of her face transplant is the greatest reward,” said Dr. Brian Gastman, one of the woman’s 11 surgeons. “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. This surgery can give her back the self-esteem and confidence she lost.”
The woman, whose identity will not be revealed by the Cleveland Clinic, has been recovering well and will begin eating orally again soon. She is already walking and talking post-surgery.
The woman will continue to go through rehabilitation, helping her become re-accustomed to talking and swallowing. She will also receive physical and occupational therapy. Like all transplant patients, she will take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of her life to prevent rejection.
“To reach this point of recovery has often times been a difficult road to travel, but I’m thankful there’s been a road – and Cleveland Clinic has been the vehicle to help drive me along,” the recipient said in a statement. “I am forever grateful for the care this hospital has given me and continues to offer on my journey of recovery and healing. To call my surgeons, physicians, nurses and caregivers ‘world class’ would be an understatement. And to my donor and her family – words cannot express the appreciation I have for this incredible gift. With a grateful heart, I say ‘thank you’ to all who have made this possible for me.”
The Cleveland Clinic completed the first face transplant in 2008. Since then, only five other institutions in the U.S. have completed the procedure.
Photo from Cleveland Clinic
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Originally published July 18, 2017.