Cleveland Clinic surgeons perform first face transplant in the U.S.

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 12, 2009

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Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic performed a near-total face transplant in December 2008. The ethically controversial procedure was first done in France in 2005, with good results for the recipient. Two other patients, one in France and one in China, have received face transplants since then.

The 22-hour Cleveland Clinic procedure grafted everything but the forehead, lower lip, chin and upper eyelids from a dead donor onto the recipient. Surgeons said the patient was doing well, news accounts reported. The recipient, a woman who was not identified, hopes to regain her ability to eat and breathe without mechanical assistance and will have to adhere to a lifelong regime of immunosuppressive drugs. Physicians said the recipient has at least a year of physical therapy to make the most of her new face.

Aside from science-fiction-driven fears of using face transplants to change identities, the medical ethical controversy centers on approving a transplant procedure aimed not at saving the recipient's life but improving quality of life. A major risk of the surgery is that if the recipient's body rejects a facial transplant despite the aid of drugs, surgeons would have to graft skin from other parts of the body to heal the gaping facial wound.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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