Face transplant is a surgical procedure used to transplant or repair disfigured faces. Face transplant can transplant a part or whole of the face with the tissue of a dead donor. Face transplant is a complex transplant surgery and demands advanced planning ranging from weeks to months. This surgery is performed only in specialized medical clinics worldwide. Each transplant surgery is carefully evaluated and closely monitored to ensure appropriate and best results.
What does The Procedure of Face Transplant Entail?
Face Transplant is a complicated procedure that consists of different stages from pre-treatment to recovery. Let us understand these stages one by one.
Before the surgery:
Face transplant is a most complex surgery. To ensure that you are willing to take the risk in the hope of positive results, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I know the risks involved?
- Am I ready to commit to life-long medications and follow-up care?
- Are the benefits of this surgery going to enhance my quality of life?
Even if you are committed to the surgery, discuss with your doctor the alternative methods involved. Everyone is not eligible for a face transplant, and to qualify for this surgery, you need to have the following qualities and pass the following tests:
- You should have a disfigured face and it affects functions, such as food ingestion, breathing, and speech.
- You will need comprehensive X-rays, scans, and other tests to ensure that you are physically fit for the surgery.
- You may need to undergo a mental health examination to access your psychological fitness.
- Your doctor will inquire and evaluate your medical, health, and family history.
- You should not be pregnant, a smoker, an alcoholic, or have a habit of taking illegal drugs .
- You should not have any prevailing health conditions, infections, and medical problems, such as heart diseases, non-treatable cancers, and diabetes.
- A few hospitals assess your financial stability, as the financial burden with this surgery and its follow-up care is high.
- Your doctor will check your blood group, skin color, tissue type, age, and facial size.
- You need to take a few pre-surgery precautions and make arrangements for travel and stay.
- Stay in touch with your surgical team for regular updates.
Face transplant is a complex surgery and will take anywhere between 10-30 hours, depending on the extent of transplant required.
- Your transplantation team transplants various parts like muscles, bones, fat, skin, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, and cartilage depending on your disfigurement.
- Your surgical team generally consists of highly skilled medical professionals, including anesthesiologists, surgical nurses, and plastic surgeons.
After the surgery:
Your doctor will suggest three to four weeks of hospitalization, depending on your health progress.
- You may have to undergo medications to control and cope with the pain.
- You may also need physical and mental therapy after the initial few days.
- You have to be particular about taking your medicines and never skip them.
- Your doctor will advise you to take immunosuppressants to ensure that your transplantation is not rejected or avoid side effects.
- Your entire surgical team will chalk out a post-surgery treatment plan to optimize your health progress.
Who Can Undergo A Face Transplant?
Sometimes people can injure their face in a violent incident. Their face may become disfigured as a result of the injuries sustained. Though the disfigurement may range from mild to severe, it is not comfortable to live with. It also has a severe toll on an individual’s mental health. So, a face transplant is a ray of hope for such people.
However, you need to weigh the pros and cons of face transplant surgery before the procedure, as you may have to take medications for the rest of your life to avoid side effects and reduce any other risks.
Why Is It Performed?
Your doctor will suggest a face transplant only if it is the last choice left and your disfigured face is beyond any repairs. These may include:
- You have severe burns on your face.
- You have severe congenital facial defects.
- To reduce facial trauma and disfiguration.
- You have severely hurt your face in an accident.
- You are undergoing severe mental trauma because of your disfigured face. You may have to supplement it with evidence sometimes.
- Your face is functionally disabled and causing you problems when chewing, swallowing, breathing, and talking.
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What Are The Benefits of A Face Transplant?
- You will be able to regain functionality in part or whole of your face.
- You will regain your confidence.
- Your appearance will improve
- You may be able to overcome the social isolation caused by your disfigured face.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
Face transplant is a relatively new and challenging surgery. As it is a complex surgery, you can expect the following complications after surgery:
- Face transplant is a lengthy procedure. You may face life-threatening situations during and after the surgery, like heavy loss of blood, blood clotting, and infections.
- In some cases, your body’s natural immune system may reject the new tissues or organs transplanted. Sometimes you may not be able to regain the functionality even after transplantation. However, your doctors will prescribe immunosuppressants, which ensure a reduced risk of rejection and other side effects.
- You have to commit to taking immunosuppressants for the rest of your life. Although they reduce the risk of post-surgery side effects, they come with other risks, including kidney damage, diabetes, and cancer.
Although face transplant is a challenging surgery, it is the only option to regain the normal life that has been lost. The benefits of both physical and mental quality of life cannot be understated. However, it is essential to be fully aware before committing to undergoing surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How long does it take to recover?
Incisions and swelling will heal during the initial months of surgery. Within the first year of the surgery, you can fully resume your normal life activities. You can continue your daily routine with a few restrictions as prescribed by your doctor.
Will I look like my donor after surgery?
Although a few parts are taken from your donor, you don’t look like your donor. There may be a slight resemblance, but that is negligible.
What happens if the transplant fails?
Your doctor will prescribe immunosuppressants to avoid the risk of rejection, infection, and transplantation failure. However, if the transplant fails, your surgical team analyzes other reconstructive procedures.
Who cannot take this surgery?
People aged above 60 years, pregnant women, people with smoking and alcohol consumption habits, people with health conditions like diabetes, and resistance to immunosuppressant drugs are not qualified for this surgery.