April 24, 2010

World’s First Complete Face Transplant Successful

A Spanish hospital announced recently that it had successfully performed the world's first complete face transplant in March after an accident five years ago left a man unable to swallow, breath or talk normally.

Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital said that the other 11 face transplants carried out around the world only involved part of the patient's face.

Joan Pere Barret, the leader of the medical team that carried out the procedure, told a news conference that the unidentified man received new facial muscles, skin, lips, jaw, teeth, palate and cheekbones during the 22-hour-long operation.

A team of 30 experts made sure the patient's new face was created in the likeness of the face he had before the accident. 

"The patient has scars on his forehead and neck, but in the future they will be fully concealed," Barret told the AFP.

"He saw himself in the mirror when he wanted to and when psychologists said that he was ready. It was a week after the operation and he reacted well, he was calm and satisfied," he added.

The first successful face transplant was performed in 2005 in France on Isabelle Diniore, a 38-year-old woman that was mauled by her dog.

Face transplants have since been carried out in China, the U.S. and Spain.

According to the health ministry, Spain led the world in organ donations in 2009 for the 18th consecutive year.

The World Health Organization ranks Spain's public health care system as the seventh best in the world.  It offers universal coverage as a constitutionally-guaranteed right.