Patient Gets a New Face, Thanks to Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic

Medical professionals at Cleveland Clinic have performed the nation’s first ever “80 percent face transplant.”

While specific patient details have been withheld, the clinic’s online press release reports that the patient is a female who had previously suffered facial trauma. During the procedure, which required almost a full (22 hour) day, many aspects of the patient’s face were replaced or restored.  Trained in the latest microsurgery and transplantation techniques, the surgeons integrated facial structures like the lower eyelids and nose, while also replacing complex tissues like nerves, arteries and skin.

Doctor Maria Siemionow, director of Plastic surgery research and team leader for the operation has spent a much of her career on research and development for such a procedure. She was able to direct professionals from many disciplines, including surgery, anesthesia, opthamology, dentistry and bioethics. A multifaceted approach of this magnitude is probably the only way to succeed in such a complex surgical procedure.

Regarding the necessity of facial surgery, Siemionow says, “No other aspect of our anatomy is capable of even a fraction of the complexity of motion and emotion allowed by the muscles and tissues of the face.”  She describes her motivation in a recent Wall Street Journal article saying,”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.”