Only six face transplant surgeries have been performed in the entire U.S., one of them earlier this month on a 37-year-old male at the University of Maryland Medical Center. It was the first such procedure in the state and took place over 72 hours.
Now Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
is following suit and expects to get approval within the next few months to perform the rare and complicated surgery.
The request from Hopkins Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
is being considered by a Johns Hopkins University board, which has already approved its hand transplant surgery. Such boards are fairly standard among facilities that perform research on humans, the goal being to ensure the safety of the subjects.
Face transplant surgery is a medical procedure that replaces all or part of a person's face with facial tissue from a deceased human donor. Although at this point Hopkins does not have a specific candidate for the surgery, "many patients have expressed interests, and we plan to screen patients for face transplantation" as soon as approval is given, says W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, who has formed a face transplant team.
Besides Lee, key faculty members on the team are Dr. Chad Gordon, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, who was involved in the country's first face transplant at Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Gerald Brandacher, visiting associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery; and Dr. Patrick Byrne, associate professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery.
"There are many patients with significant facial disfigurement that cannot be adequately reconstructed with conventional means. Face transplant offers the best reconstructive option for them," says Lee. "In addition, we have an immune modulation protocol that allows us to perform such transplants with much reduced anti-rejection medication, thus minimizing their side effects.
Source: Dr. Andrew Lee, director, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Writer: Barbara Pash