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First U.S. Face Transplants Performed in 2011

Last Updated: December 28, 2011.

In 2011, three patients successfully underwent full-face transplantation, the first such procedures ever performed in the United States; the details of these surgeries have been published online Dec. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- In 2011, three patients successfully underwent full-face transplantation, the first such procedures ever performed in the United States; the details of these surgeries have been published online Dec. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Bohdan Pomahac, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues performed the procedures in an attempt to correct severe deformities and restore near-normal appearance and function in one surgical procedure.

The researchers note that each patient underwent rigorous screening to determine their physical and mental fitness before undergoing the procedure, while meticulous post-surgical care included immunosuppressants and methodical screening for signs of organ rejection. All patients were surviving at the six-month follow-up; both their facial appearance and function were improved; and they were no longer receiving glucocorticoids.

"Unlike conventional reconstruction, facial transplantation seeks to transform severely deformed features to a near-normal appearance and function that conventional reconstructive plastic surgical techniques cannot match," Pomahac said in a statement. "Our focus moving forward continues to be on monitoring and documenting the progress of patients who have undergone full-face transplantation, and refining the use of immunosuppressants, with the hope that one day patients will eventually need to take little or none."

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