The first comprehensive study of all known
facial transplants, published by Dr. Rodriguez in an April 2014 issue of The Lancet,
concluded that the procedure is “relatively
safe, increasingly feasible, and a clear life-changer that can and should be offered to
far more carefully selected patients.” 9, 10 The
study includes an analysis of medical journals and interviews with surgeons who had
performed face transplant procedures up to
The study also highlights the fact that face
transplants continue to be experimental and
pose lifelong risks associated with infection
and reactions to toxic immunosuppressive
drugs. Despite those risks, Dr. Rodriguez
said, advances in immunomodulatory and
immunosuppressive protocols, microsurgi-cal techniques, and computer-aided surgical
planning, such as 3-D modeling and CT
scans, are key to establishing new standards
of care for this field. 9
Dr. Rodriguez compared the first decade
of facial transplantation to the beginning
stages of liver transplantation in the 1960s,
when recipients lived less than one year.
Today, he says, liver transplantation is performed at more than 100 medical centers
in the U.S. alone, and the vast majority of
patients, including children, survive beyond
a year, with outcomes continuously improving despite liver transplantation’s frequent
complications. “We are still very much in
the early days of facial transplantation,”
said Dr. Rodriguez. “So long as our patients
need it—and they do—then it is our medical duty to continue to advance science and
medicine, and improve how we perform the
procedure so that it is more widely available to future generations of people whose
severe disfigurements go beyond the means
of conventional surgery.” 9 ♦
1. New York University Langone Medical Center. Surgeons at
NYU Langone Medical Center perform the most extensive face
transplant to date and first in New York state. Press release.
November 16, 2015. Available at: http://nyulangone.org/press-releases/surgeons-at-nyu-langone-medical-center-perform-the-most-extensive-face-transplant-to-date-first-in-new-york-state.
Accessed December 28, 2015.
2. Fishman S. Biography of a face. New York. November 15, 2015.
Available at: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/11/
patrick-hardison-face-transplant.html. Accessed November 25,
3. Pengelly M. New York plastic surgeon performs “most extensive”
face transplant ever. The Guardian. November 15, 2015. Available
plastic-surgeon-firefighter-new-york-magazine. Accessed December
4. Cha AE. Groundbreaking face transplant: After a firefighter was
injured on duty, a deceased 26-year-old cyclist gave him his life
back. Washington Post. November 17, 2015. Available at: www.
surgeons-announce-most-comprehensive-face-transplant-to-date-on-volunteer-firefighter-photos/. Accessed December 28, 2015.
5. Patrick Hardison’s face was not always his own. Three months ago,
it belonged to a young Brooklyn bike mechanic. Herald Recorder.
November 21, 2015. Available at: www.heraldrecorder.org/health/
today-20155567/. Accessed December 28, 2015.
6. Gann C. Virginia man gets a new face. ABC News. March 27, 2012.
Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/doctors-perform-
extensive-face-transplant/story?id=16013394. Accessed December
7. Caplan A. Face transplant doc: Challenges in repairing destroyed
faces. Medscape. Mar 7, 2014. Available at: www.medscape.com/
viewarticle/821517. Accessed December 28, 2015.
8. New York University Langone Medical Center. Facial
transplantation: Almost a decade out, surgeons prepare for
burgeoning demand. April 18, 2014. Available at: http://
January 4, 2016.
9. New York University Langone Medical Center. Eduardo D.
Rodriguez, MD, DDS, named chair of department of plastic
surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. Press release. August 26,
2013. Available at: http://nyulangone.org/press-releases/eduardo-d-rodriguez-md-dds-named-chair-of-department-of-plastic-surgery-at-nyu-langone-medical-center. Accessed December 28, 2015.
10. Khalifian S, Brazio PS, Mohan R. Facial transplantation: The first 9
years. Lancet. 2014;384(9960):2153-2163.