How is a face transplant performed?

Katrina Bramstedt, PhD
Health Education
Face transplantation is no longer considered experimental. They are life-enhancing not life-saving. The technology is used to repair extremely disfigured faces by giving the patient a composite of skin, bone, blood vessels, muscle, nerves, tendons, and cartilage. The patients usually have already had dozens of plastic surgeries before they receive a face transplant. And like organ transplant recipients, face transplant recipients have to take immunosuppressant medications for the rest of their lives in an effort to prevent rejection (because the body recognizes the transplanted material as foreign, coming from another person -- a deceased donor).

People who seek face transplants generally have severe disfigurement caused by burns, electrocutions, or de-gloving (entrapment of the hair/face in machinery, for example).

For detailed information and photographs, see my website,
Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Face transplants take over a dozen hours to perform and cost over a quarter of a million dollars. This procedure blends science with artistry. Teams of specialized plastic surgeons called microsurgeons hook up blood vessels, nerves, muscle, and even bone between the patient and the face that has been donated usually from trauma victims. Following surgery, their bodies must heal and join the nerves to the transplanted face -- only then can the face move and feel sensation. And to do that, patients trade their deformity for a lifetime of drugs that suppress immune system. Those with vision face the unique challenge of staring at another person in the mirror every day.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Face transplants are possible thanks to advances in science and medicine. In this video, Dr. Oz welcomes the first male face transplant recipient to discuss the operation.

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