They may still be rare, but doctors are seeing face transplants gain ground, as expertize increases and as technology allows for better techniques.
Doctors in Boston just performed the 7th transplant, and France - a leader in these surgeries - performed one a week before.
There are many reasons for face transplants. Animal attacks, accidents, wars and illnesses can literally take a person's face from them. And with the needed technology growing at a rapid rate, face transplants will become more common, doctors believe. However, they will not become a kind of cosmetic option. Face transplants are done on patients who have suffered terrible injuries, causing them difficulties in eating, drinking, and speaking - and have often caused them to become socially isolated, for fear of people's reactions to their facial features.
Face transplants are extremely serious - as serious as any other transplant, like heart, kidney or lungs. Patients face the risk of rejection and infection and will need to take life long drugs to maintain their health. Psychological counseling beforehand is also necessary. Most facial transplants end up looking reasonably like their formal selves and there is no risk that the outcome will have them resembling their donor.
Facial transplants are so much more than taking the skin from a donor cadaver and putting it on a recipient. Bone, cartilage and muscle from the donor is also used, to literally rebuild a face.
The facial transplant done in Boston was donated by a person recently deceased whose family wishes to remain anonymous but are thankful that they would help someone else in a tine of such sadness. The donor's organs were also harvested.
The first face transplant was done in France in 2005, on a woman whose face was severely deformed after an animal attack. She is now in excellent health and her face now looks normal - with little evidence that she has had a face transplant.
What do you think of face transplants? Knowing the risks involved and the seriousness of the procedure, would you want one, if you had been disfigured?
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