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Face Transplant Surgeons Describe Pioneering Procedure

Operation declared a success four-months on

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- The team of French researchers who successfully performed a face transplant in November 2005 provide a detailed description of the technique in a paper published online on July 4 in The Lancet.

Bernard Devauchelle, M.D., of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Amiens in Amiens, France, and colleagues performed the transplant of the central and lower face of a brain-dead woman onto a 38-year-old woman. The recipient had lost the distal nose, both lips, chin and parts of the cheeks as a result of a severe dog bite.

The surgery comprised revascularization of the facial arteries and veins, nerve and muscular repair and skin closure. The patient received two infusions of donor bone-marrow cells and was given immunosuppressive treatment with thymoglobulin, tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil and prednisone.

Apart from mild signs of rejection at the 20-day mark, which subsided after three boluses of prednisone, there were no complications, and the recovery process was smooth. A week after surgery, the patient was able to eat and there was a rapid improvement in speech, although she required physiotherapy to improve lip movement.

"The four-month outcome demonstrates the feasibility of this procedure. The functional result will be assessed in the future, but this graft can already be deemed successful with respect to appearance, sensitivity, and acceptance by the patient," the authors conclude.

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