Full Facial Transplant Surgery: Not Just in the Movies

The idea of transplanting someone’s face seems a bit, well, crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s gaining traction. The first partial facial transplant happened in 2005, and the first full facial transplant in the world happened in 2010 in Spain.

Since then, procedures have occurred in France, USA, Turkey, and more. In fact, there is now a case in Latin America for the first time. We’ll take a look at this new Latin American case in Chile.


Facial Transplant in Chile: The Details

The patient is a young man in Chile. He’s 29. He was in an accident over a decade ago. That left him with facial disfigurement. He lost part of his nose and jaw. Now he must eat through a small opening. The surgery has not happened yet. They’re waiting on a donor. The donor must be male. He must have a matching blood type. And he must be in a similar age range (20-40).

Finally, he must also have a similar type of skin for it to work. Once they find a donor, the surgery will be intensive. They must replace some of the bone structure. They also need to replace some muscle tissue. They need all of the cartilage that makes up the nose. They even need all of the tissue that forms the cheeks and upper lip area. Doing all of this will take anywhere between 14 and 20 hours. And it will take two medical teams working together.

Each team will have at least 5 surgeons. But if it goes well, it will be worth it. It will help the patient to be able to eat and speak more normally. He will be able to breathe through his nose again. He will also be able to open and close his eyes more normally too. These are major changes that should vastly improve his quality of life. The medical team has already begun their preparations. They’re prepared to proceed as soon as they have a donor lined up. They chose this case as their first because they have options. If the facial transplant does not go as expected, they do have other ways they can help to rebuild this man’s face.


Facial Transplant: What Do You Think?

Of course the patient will not look like he used to before the accident, but this type of surgery is more about function than looks. This is a restorative procedure to help him regain basic abilities, like breathing better and eating. How his face ends up looking is less relevant. This type of reconstructive surgery is helping people who are severely injured. They can regain some semblance of normality in their lives. This can help people who have been disfigured, suffered major burns, and more. It can help with some types of birth defects. It can even help with some types of facial tumors. While these patients don’t usually regain 100% functionality, they can see major improvements after they have healed from the procedure. It can mean a big difference in their lives, allowing them to regain control over basic functions and regain a portion of what they’ve lost.



Dr. Michael J. Brown is a board-certified plastic surgeon who offers innovative aesthetic procedures for the face, breast, and body.


The Loudoun Center for Plastic Surgery 

45155 Research Pl
Ste 125
Ashburn, VA 20147

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