Just imagine for a moment that you are victimized by a terrible facially disfiguring disease, a hunting accident or tragic car wreck.  Few operations are as controversial as the one you might crave:  the face transplant.

Today, Orlando Cosmetic Surgery brings you a little of the history and some of the ethical questions behind this controversial surgery, which is both reconstructive and cosmetic.

The Big Questions:

Should the need arise, could you imagine wanting to wear another person’s face?  Likewise, if you are an organ donor, could you imagine including your face in your gifts? Could you give such a strongly individualistic part of “you” as easily as you sign away your eyes and kidneys?  These are some of the ethical questions involved when we think of a face transplant.  The first human transplants were accomplished in 2005, and some of these questions are still under debate.

Not long ago a “face transplant” would have been considered science fiction. Not today! According to this months journal, Plastic Surgery Practice, “To date, 25 facial transplants have been performed worldwide, and the procedure is expected to become more common in the years ahead.”  For someone who is horribly disfigured in an accident, this surgery offers both physical and psychological hope and identity.

Dr. Kodi Azari, chief of reconstructive transplantation and associate professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, stated, “Facial transplantation offers the potential to restore humanity to persons who have suffered the devastating loss of their face.” He added, “People with massive facial injuries often have trouble breathing, speaking and eating, as well as depression and social isolation.”

A face is not just a matter of vanity. You do not have to go very deeply into a story to discover the value of an individual’s visage. Experts say that many patients only desire features that are normal enough to allow them to blend into the crowd at public events or the grocery store.

The Prize of a Routine Life!

The outcomes of face transplant patients thus far have been amazing. Although statistics are small, due to the small number of cases, “Patients can expect up to an 80 percent restoration of facial function.”

1. No more feeding tube:  Surgeons have restored the ability to eat. “those who were fed by a tube to the stomach can now dine with a knife and fork.”

2. Some patients who could not articulate are once again able to talk.

3. Functions we take for granted, such as a smile, a kiss, a deep breath of air:  Any or all of these human functions are restored by the meticulous work of the cosmetic  surgeon and his team.

The Price Behind a New Face!

1. The patient will face the normal risk factors of a long surgery, and this surgery requires hours of preparation for the surgical team, in addition to the 15-22 hours of actual operating time.

2. The patient must take immunosuppressive drugs all his or her life. There is the risk of the body’s rejection of the transplanted face.  Getting an infection, or just getting “sick,” could be dangerous.

3. Function does not always follow form. In other words, the face might be there, for appearance sake, but recovering the functions and movement might be very slow, or never happen at all.

In 2002 and in 2005, there was a great deal of ethical discussion, and much of it centered on “identity transfer.” Would a patient see  their donor’s face, instead of their own face, and react in remorse and fear? Would the psychological implications be more than the mind could bear? Would the scene dissolve into a “B” grade horror movie plot?

These concerns prevented some doctors from admitting the importance of facial transplants for a long time.  History has proven that such concerns were unfounded, because the new face does not really look like the donor’s face or the patient’s old face. Additionally, horribly disfigured patients have been desensitized to a certain extent, as “they’ve already experienced significant changes to their appearance prior to the transplant.”  Patients seem quite resilient about integrating their new face into their identity. One of the secrets behind such acceptance is good psychological preparation, and numerous interviews. Not every patient can be a candidate for this massive surgery.

Orlando Cosmetic Surgery thanks you for reading our blog.  We will continue to bring you the latest news from the world of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.