Cleveland Clinic surgeons perform face transplant on youngest US recipient

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Katie Stubblefield became the youngest person to receive a face transplant in the U.S. when she underwent the procedure at Cleveland Clinic in 2017, according to CBS News.

Ms. Stubblefield lost a large portion of her face and suffered a traumatic brain injury after she shot herself in the head during a 2014 suicide attempt. Brian Gastman, MD, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic told National Geographic her injury was one of the worst face traumas he'd seen in his 27 years of training and practice.

 "It was not great," he told the publication. "Her brain was basically exposed, and I mean, we're talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems. Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive."

Ms. Stubblefield's face transplant was the third performed at Cleveland Clinic and the 40th in the world.

The full procedure included transplantation of the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw, half of the lower jaw, teeth, partial facial nerves, facial muscles and skin, according to a Cleveland Clinic press release. Ms. Stubblefield will be on medication for the rest of her life to help prevent her body from rejecting the new face.

"Knowing this patient now has the opportunity to live a functional life because of her face transplant is the greatest reward," Dr. Gastman said in the press release. "With a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids and jaw, she now has the full opportunity to re-integrate into society and have a future just like any other young adult. This surgery can give her back the self-esteem and confidence she lost. "

Here is National Geographic's full coverage of Ms. Stubblefield's healthcare journey.

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