8 things to know about face transplants

Before face transplants, burn victims and others who'd lost substantial amounts facial tissues in a traumatic incident could only rely on a patchwork of skin grafts from elsewhere on the body or cadavers to restore appearance and function.

In the recent decades, advances in medical science have permitted surgeons across several nations to perform dozens of face transplants, including physicians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who recently completed Mayo's first successful face transplant.

Here are seven things to know about face transplants.

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1. Definition: The Mayo Clinic defines a face transplant as "a treatment option for some people with severe facial disfigurement. A face transplant replaces all or part of a person's face with donor tissue from someone who has died."

2. World's first face transplant: Surgeons in Amiens, France, performed the first partial face transplant on 38-year-old Isabelle Dinoire in November 2005. Ms. Dinoire lost her nose, lips, chin and parts of her cheeks after a dog attack. Surgeons replaced the lower area of the face encompassing these damaged tissues with facial material from a dead 46-year-woman, according to The Guardian.

3. First face transplant in the United States: The first partial face transplant in the U.S. was performed at Cleveland Clinic in December 2008. Connie Culp received the transplant five years after a blast from a shotgun shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. By 2009, she could again talk, smile, smell and taste again, according to The Guardian.

4. World's first full face transplant: The world's first full face transplant was performed in Barcelona, Spain, in March 2010. The surgery was performed on a farmer who was left unable to eat or breathe after an accidental self-inflicted gunshot to the face, according to the Guardian. It was a 24-hour procedure in which the jaw, nose, cheekbones, muscles, teeth and eyelids of a donor were attached by surgeons.

5. First full face transplant in U.S.: The first full face transplant in the U.S. was performed by a team of more than 30 physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in 2011. The procedure took 15 hours and involved the replacement of the nose, lips, facial skin, facial animation muscles and the nerves of Dallas Wiens. Mr. Wiens lost his face after his head came into contact with an electrical line while operating a boom lift 2008, according to ABC News.

6. Recent face transplants in the U.S.: In August 2015, a plastic surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and a team of more than 100 physicians performed the most extensive face transplant up to that time on a volunteer firefighter, according to the hospital. More recently, in the summer of 2016, an interdisciplinary team at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., performed a successful 50-hour near-total face transplant on a 32-year-old Wyoming man whose face was severely damaged from gunshot wound when he was 21.

7. Donors: The facial tissue used in transplants must be connected to an active blood source at the time of the procedure. Therefore, donors must be alive and on life support, but brain dead with no hope of recovery, according to The Telegraph. Donors are matched by gender, race, approximate age and blood type. According to Brigham and Women's Hospital, registering as an organ and tissue donor is not accepted as consent for a face donation, so family must give consent.

8. Complications and controversy: Face transplant recipients could be imbued with many post-operative challenges including both physical and psychological complications. Controversy surrounding the surgery stems from donors being taken off life support and the risks involved with the complicated procedure as the lives of recipients' are not technically at-risk at the time of surgery.

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