Face Transplant- A Medical Breakthrough

A face transplant is a procedure for individuals with a severe facial deformity. This surgery shows potential in replacing all or part of a person’s face with cadaveric donor tissue. A face transplant is an incredibly intricate surgery and is performed after months of planning and consulting multiple surgical panels. The procedure is performed in very few transplant centres in the world. Before the transplant, every face transplant candidate is carefully analysed to help guarantee the greatest possible outcome in enhancing face aesthetics and functionality.

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Face reconstructive surgery is usually performed to enhance the quality of face of a person severely disfigured by facial trauma, diseases, burns or birth deformities. It is envisioned to renew the aesthetic appearance and functional abilities, such as chewing, swallowing, talking and breathing through the nose. Many individuals undergo this surgery to get rid of the social pressure they experience while living with severe facial distortion. This reconstructive surgery has proved to be of potential in correcting jaw palate, teeth, saggy nose, cheeks, facial muscles, oral mucosa, skin of the face and restoring the proper functioning of the salivary glands. Face Transplant is a revolutionary landmark in Science for acid attack survivors, it will help lift their confidence.

Face Transplant Surgery

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

A face transplant changes your life, but it comes with various risks. However, the aftermath of face transplant can’t be predicted and how one’s immune system will respond to the transplanted face. The patient will be on immunosuppressants for the rest of your life to mitigate the odds of one’s body rejecting the transplanted face. The first near-total face transplant was performed on a US citizen. The woman was shot in the face with a shotgun by her husband in 2004, and this pioneering surgery gave her a new face. Majority of her middle part of the face was dead, and her face was devoid of nose, including mouth, facial nerve, skin and other structural impairment. Her face was distorted, her speech was slurred, and she had faced a lot of social embarrassment. This surgery was her only shot so that she could regain normal facial function and appearance.

What is the procedure of Face Transplant?

Before the surgery

Before a patient undergoes a face transplant, he or she is counselled and is closely evaluated. The patients may be posed with questions such as –

  • Are you aware of the risks of face transplant?
  • Will you diligently stick to lifelong follow-up care?
  • What are your expectations from this surgery?
  • Are you well acquainted with treatment alternatives, such as a facial prosthesis or traditional facial reconstruction?

Who are eligible for Face Transplant?

  • Patients whose face are severely distorted
  • Loss of basic facial function, such as chewing or talking
  • The patient should be a non-smoker
  • Should not be Pregnant
  • No history of drug abuse or alcoholism
  • No history of nerve ailments
  • Should not be afflicted with diabetes, heart ailments or an untreated cancer

Once a candidate is suitable to undergo this procedure, then the patients are made to undertake specific scans and tests such as X-rays, CT and MRI scans, blood tests, etc. Their mental and emotional health, coping skills, family and social backing, cognitive behaviour, and ability to take care of themselves after the surgery is closely analysed. Then the financial evaluation of transplant and post-transplant expenses is done.

Prepping Up for Face Transplant

Once a patient has a donor then the compatibility of the donor and the recipient is matched via analysing the blood type, tissue type and skin complexion of the patient. Various other aspects that are evaluated are the compatibility of the facial size of the recipient and the donor and the ages and races too.

During Face Transplant

The duration of a face transplant surgery depends on the extent of underlying structure disfigurement. Skin tissue, extra fat extracted via liposuction, muscles, tendons, cartilage, bone nerves and blood vessels may be used from the donor for constructing the face.

The transplant might take close to 40-50 hours. This procedure is performed by plastic surgeons’ who are proficient in microsurgery and craniofacial surgery.

Cost of Face Transplant in India

The cost would depend upon the choice of hospital and surgeon. Further, it will also depend upon the type of face transplant (partial or full). The cost varies and starts at USD 22,500 (INR 16,12,012) and may go up to USD 85,000 (INR 60,89,825).

After Face Transplant

Post Face Transplant, the patient will need extra care, including four weeks of hospital admittance. The patient will be on a liquid diet and will be fed via a tube. The doctors will prescribe a collection of immunosuppressant drugs to avert the episodes of donor face rejection. Under the guidance of surgeons, patients will be made to undergo speech therapy.

A successful transplant will enable the patient to smell, chew, swallow, drink, talking, breathe normally, smile and will potentially enhance facial aesthetics. 

What are the risks of a Face Transplant?

A face transplant is a very nascent and complicated procedure, till now no face transplant procedure has been performed in India. Between 2005 and 2014, close 30 patients underwent a face transplant, in the age bracket of 20 to 60. Among these, three died because of the infection on rejection.

Complications can arise from the surgical procedure because it’s a 50-hour arduous procedure done with meticulousness. Some of the risks that can arise during surgery or post-surgery are a loss of blood, infection and blood clots.

Complications pertaining to the newly constructed facial tissue may arise if the body’s immune system rejects the donor’s face. To avert the episodes of rejection, a patient may be exposed to intensive IV dose of anti-rejection drugs, and if rejection is not controlled, then it may be fatal for the patient. Some of the signs of rejection are swelling and change in the tone of the skin.

The anti-rejection drugs that one is exposed for the rest of their lives may take a toll on a patient’s immune system. These drugs curtail tissue rejection but are also associated with putting a patient at the risk of kidney failure, cancer, diabetes and other severe conditions.

The scope of Face Transplant in India

Face Transplant is just an insight proposed by Dr Siemionow, who performed the face transplants when she was practising in Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Holla Indian patients, you may very soon witness first Face Transplant in your country. Indian doctors are comparatively more potent to perform this complicated reconstructive procedure because they have successful bilateral hand transplants to their credit. The main obstacle that Indian healthcare system may face is financing expensive anti-rejection drugs and the dearth of cadaveric face donors.

Dr Siemionow brainstormed on the notion of face transplants for 20 years, and she is on the verge of evolving science by designing a stem-cell-based mechanism to overcome the complexities of donor rejection and replace anti-rejection drugs.

Some aspects pertaining to facial transplant remain intractable. Therefore, further research is warranted which will pave the way for resolving various complications and will lead to the development of efficient techniques. Facial transplantation seems like a far-fetched notion, but it is hence on the verge of changing the face of medicine and sparking hope amongst disfigured patients.

If a patient feels that he or she is a potential candidate for this surgery, don’t hesitate and contact MedMonks. It is a medical tourism platform which will potentially comprehend your case and help you with your treatment. Under the guidance of physician executives, Team Medmonks stick to their healthcare algorithm of dispensing quality counselling to the patient. The healthcare professionals here have accumulated thirty years of experience in the field of medicine and have tie-ups with India’s leading hospitals. Starting from preparing the treatment plan, scheduling appointment with the best and the most suitable doctor for a particular treatment to making necessary arrangements, our team takes care of everything. MadMonks does not charge any fee; it’s just the treatment fee that one will have to bear.