50-hour face transplant surgery successful at Mayo Clinic

An interdisciplinary care team at Mayo Clinic's main campus in Rochester, Minn., successfully performed a near-total face transplant on a 32-year-old Wyoming man whose face was severely damaged from gunshot wound when he was 21.

During the more than 50 hours of surgery that took place in the summer of 2016, Mayo surgeons worked to restore Andrew Sandness' nose, upper and lower jaw, palate, teeth, cheeks, facial muscles, oral mucosa, some salivary glands and skin from the eyelids to the neck. The surgery will improve Mr. Sandness' ability to chew, swallow, speak, breathe and smell.

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"Mayo Clinic has a long history of specialized teams of experts providing complex care to patients who need hope and healing," said Samir Mardini, MD, one of the care team's leaders and the surgical director for Mayo's Essam and Dalal Obaid Center for Reconstructive Transplant Surgery. "This is an extraordinary example of the teamwork, collaboration and compassion that we provide at Mayo Clinic, and I couldn't be more proud of this team. Andy has been our patient for 10 years. He has worked so hard to prepare for this, and during his entire recovery period, he has been strong, gracious and determined. Andy is an amazing person and so well-deserving of this gift."

The primary goal of the surgery is to improve motor function and restore anatomy. A secondary goal of the procedure is to improve social integration of patients by removing deformity. Mr. Sandness has been recovering in Rochester since the surgery. His facial sensation is improving and he can now chew regular food. He is expected to return home to Wyoming this month.

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