Jump to content

UK surgeons get go-ahead for world's first full face transplant


Recommended Posts

UK surgeons get go-ahead for world's first full face transplant


Last updated at 10:49am on 25th October 2006 commentIconSm.gif

isabelledinoire_228x224.jpgIsabelle Dinoire had the first partial face transplant




The world's first full face transplant is to be carried out in England.

A team at the Royal Free in Hampstead, London, headed by surgeon Peter Butler has been given approval by an ethics committee to carry out the historic operation.

It will involve three surgical teams working over at least 15 hours and could take place within months.

See also: Your guide to face transplants


Mr Butler intends to remove the whole face from a brain-dead donor and transplant it onto a severely disfigured patient.

The procedure is much more complicated than the partial transplant carried out on a woman in France last November.

Some experts have opposed the operation because the aim is not to save a life as with most transplants but simply to improve the patient's quality of life. Others are concerned that the recipient would look like the donor and could be recognised by the bereaved family.

Four patients will be operated on in a clinical trial initially. The team have seen 34 patients but have yet to select the first one to undergo the transplant.

Mr Butler said: "We can now begin to evaluate patients and draw up a shortlist of four people who want to undergo this procedure. We will continue to take a cautious and careful approach."

Mr Butler added: "This is a very new and important way of helping people with terrible facial injuries such as burns and we will continue to take infinite care to ensure the best results.

"And although the surgery will happen at the Royal Free the final research will be shared for the benefit of patients worldwide."

Andrew Way, chief executive of the Royal Free, said the decision by the hospital's ethics committee was the culmination of detailed scrutiny of the processes involved.

He said: "Groundbreaking research is always difficult and there will be doubters and detractors. However, there are many people with severe injuries for whom current surgical methods are not adequate and who will need help." It is understood several attempts were made to delay the decision in the last few days with concerns raised by the Royal College of Surgeon that their views were not being taken into account. The Royal College is understood to be cautious about the surgery and is to publish a report next month.

Mr Butler and his team have carried out extensive research on the appropriate technique to use, the drugs patients will have to take to prevent rejection of the new face, and the psychological effects of someone being given a new identity.

Simulations have shown that the patient will not look like their donor and will in appearance have a hybrid face made up of their own bone structure and the new skin over the top.

Isabelle Diniore, 38, became the first person to have a partial face transplant when surgeons at Amiens University Hospital attached the lower part of a donor's face in a 15-hour operation last year. The divorced mother of two has since recovered some feeling and movement in her face and says the operation was a "miracle".

Mr Butler will consider patients who have full facial burns, have suffered serious diseases affecting the skin and those with traumatic injuries caused in accidents.

Most will have undergone around 50 conventional plastic surgery operations where skin grafts have been used to construct a covering for the face but give a very poor result.

Once the new procedure is established, Mr Butler hopes face transplants will be offered in the first instance, soon after the injury.

Mr Butler has established a charity to fund the work called The Face Trust, with Falklands war veteran and burns victim Simon Weston as patron. He is appealing for funds to continue this work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...