A team of UK surgeons have been given permission to carry out the world’s first full face transplant. Charities and victims of facial disfigurements have welcomed the news, which will save them from long and painful reconstructive operations. The first partial face transplant was performed in France 11 months ago on Isabelle Dinoire, a dog attack victim who had lost her nose, lips and chin. There has always been some controversy surrounding the procedure, with many people being worried about seeing the face of a dead loved one on another person. However consultant Peter Butler, who will lead the team carrying out the transplant has reassured the public that once a face is transplanted, it settles across the bone structure and cartilage of the recipient, so that the characteristics become the recipients and you can’t recognise the donor’s face. The 12 hour £25,000 procedure involves taking skin, fatty tissues, veins and arteries from the donor and carefully attaching it onto the recipient.
However the surgery does carry certain risks, including tissue rejection, cancer from long term use of immuno-suppressant drugs and psychological problems. Also surgeons are still not sure how to make the eyelids work on a donor face, which is obviously important as the eyes need coverage and protection. In addition, experts warn that immuno-suppressant drugs can shorten life by up to 20 years. However as Peter Butler starts the search for a suitable candidate to undergo the first procedure, for many facial disfigurement victims, the gains of the surgery far outweigh the risks to enable them to live a normal life again.
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