Saving face: Spanish hospital performs world's most complex ‘face transplant’

Reuters / Kham
A Spanish hospital claims it has successfully performed the most complex ‘face transplant’ ever. The medics managed to reconstruct the lower part of the face of the man who was terribly afflicted by a disease.

Physicians in Barcelona performed what they call a 'face transplant', although no information about a donor was made available.

The 27-hour-long surgery was performed at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital back in February, the hospital said in a statement.

It was conducted by a huge team of 45, which included physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and other health professionals.

"This is the first time that a transplant of this complexity is performed in the world," the statement said.

The 45-year-old patient has suffered for 20 years from arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, bypassing the capillary system. The condition can cause intense pain or bleeding and lead to serious complications.

The man, who didn’t want to be identified, had mass deformation of his tissue.

"The patient, due to the evolution of his illness, had important functional alterations, such a vision and speech problems, and the risk of severe bleeding that put his life in danger," the hospital said.

The medics managed to reconstruct his lower face, neck, mouth, tongue and pharynx.

"The patient evolution after the surgery was successful, similar to any transplant patient at the hospital. Now he is already at home and only comes to the hospital to do routine checkups,” added the hospital.

Before treatment in Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron, the man consulted several other hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School in the United States. However, all of them considered him inoperable. Only Barcelona’s medics took the case, saying that the surgery was his only treatment option.

This is not the first successful face transplant carried by a team of Vall d'Hebron hospital. In 2010 the medics performed the world's first full face transplant on man who had a trauma. He was left without a nose and had deformed jaw and cheekbones.

The world's first partial face transplant was carried out in 2005 in France. Isabelle Dinoire underwent the operation to replace her original face, which had been mauled by her dog.