The world’s first face transplant procedure, completed in 2005, using tissue from a brain-dead donor to rebuild the face of a woman whose original face was torn apart by a dog. The 36-year-old woman lost her nose, lips and chin as a result of the dog attack.
Physicians have indicated some success in this novel procedure. Note that a facial transplant is not reconstructive surgery, but rather taking the face of another person and transplanting it to the victim. The final result is a face that neither has the appearance of the donor’s face or the victim’s face.
There are reported side effects to the procedure, however. These include clotting of facial blood vessels, and rejection of the transplanted skin. Massive amounts of medication postoperatively are also usually needed. And experts caution about the emotional difficulties in adjusting to a new face.
Facial transplants have not been widely undertaken in part because of ethical concerns. This is starting to change, however. A news report published on August 10, 2011 from the Associated Press indicates that 18 face transplants have been done worldwide. And also the report states that the US Department of Defense is funding research into the procedure for possible use on disfigured combat soldiers.
A well-publicized case of a facial transplant needed because of a chimpanzee mauling on a middle-aged lady happened in Connecticut in 2009. This incident is reviewed elsewhere on this website.