Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cleveland Clinic Surgeons Perform Nation's First Near-Total Face Transplant

/PRNewswire/ -- A multi-disciplinary team of doctors and surgeons at Cleveland Clinic recently performed the first near-total face transplant in the United States.

In a 22-hour procedure performed within the past two weeks, surgeons transplanted 80 percent of a woman's face who suffered severe facial trauma -- essentially replacing her entire face, except for her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin. For the privacy and protection of those involved, no information will be released on the patient, the donor or their families. (A written statement from the patient's sibling is available at

This is the largest and most complex face transplant in the world, integrating different functional components such as nose and lower eyelids, as well as different tissue types including, skin, muscles, bony structures, arteries, veins and nerves.

"This work demonstrates the Cleveland Clinic's commitment to improving the lives of patients through innovation," said Delos M. "Toby" Cosgrove, M.D., President and CEO, Cleveland Clinic. "By advancing scientific research in microsurgery and transplantation, Cleveland Clinic is setting new standards of care. I'm extremely proud of the team who worked tirelessly to make a difference in this patient's life."

The transplant team was led by Maria Siemionow, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Plastic Surgery Research and Head of Microsurgery Training, who received worldwide attention in November 2004 when the Clinic's Institutional Review Board (IRB) announced that face transplantation is both ethical and possible by approving the first protocol for the surgery. Siemionow, a highly regarded scientist, has dedicated her professional life to researching and developing the methods doctors could use to substantially help patients with severe facial disfiguration.

"As a physician, one of the most rewarding things we can do is to restore the quality of life to a patient," said Siemionow (pronounced "SEMM-ih-nof"). "Patients with facial disfigurement have very difficult challenges in society. We hope that one day we may be able to help the tens of thousands of patients who are quietly suffering."

Frank A. Papay, M.D., Chairman of the Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, said the surgery was made possible because of the multi-disciplinary team involved. "This work started with a medical team that had an extraordinary vision for what could be possible for patients who have suffered severe trauma to their faces. Cleveland Clinic's team has worked together to take that vision and make it a reality," Papay said. "In the end, we're all here for our patients to make their lives better."

Cleveland Clinic Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute led the face transplant surgery, partnering with the Cleveland Clinic Head & Neck Institute. Staff members from psychology/psychiatry, bioethics, social work, anesthesia, transplant, nursing, infectious disease, dentistry, ophthalmology, pharmacy, environmental services and security were also significantly involved.

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