Surgical Tribune Europe

Spanish surgeons successfully perform complex face transplant

By Surgical Tribune
April 02, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain: A team of professionals in various disciplines at the Valld'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona has successfully carried out an extensive face transplantation. The complicated surgical procedure is the second of its kind to be conducted at the Spanish university hospital. According to the doctors, it is the world’s most complex face transplant performed to date.

The multidisciplinary team, led by Dr Joan-Pere Barret, head of Plastic Surgery and Burns, has successfully reconstructed two-thirds of the lower face, neck, mouth, tongue and pharynx of a patient who has been affected by a massive arteriovenous malformation for 20 years. The disease caused progressive deformation of the tissue and led to substantial functional limitations, including problems of vision and speech and the risk of severe bleeding, which put the patient’s life in danger.

The man had been examined in several international hospitals, such as Harvard Medical School in the US, where he had been considered inoperable. However, the face transplant team at Valld'Hebron came to a different conclusion. The doctors at the university hospital assessed the patient’s condition and considered that the only treatment option was to remove the deformed tissue and rebuild the patient’s face through a face transplant.

The surgical procedure, carried out in early February, was highly complex and took 27 hours. The transplant team comprised 45 professionals from different departments of the hospital, including plastic surgery, anaesthesia, infectious diseases, and interventional neuroradiology.

According to the doctors, the patient recovered very well after the surgery and has already left the hospital. In the weeks after the procedure, the doctors adjusted the required immunosuppressant regimen and the patient received rehabilitative treatment.

This is the second face transplant carried out in the Valld'Hebron Hospital. The first one, which was the first full-face transplant in the world, was conducted in April 2010 on a man with severe facial deformity due to trauma that had left him without a nose and nostrils, and had deformed his jaw and cheekbones, his ethmoid bone area, and his lips and mouth.

The last successful face transplant this extensive was performed by a team of surgeons at the University of Maryland in the US in 2012. The transplant patient, Richard Lee Norris, had shot himself in the face accidentally and lost his lips, nose and most of his jaw.

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