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Facial transplantation: Almost a decade out, surgeons prepare for burgeoning demand
Date:4/29/2014

on, watch for early signs of infection, and keep up with their physical, occupational, and speech rehabilitation regimens. Having a strong family support system greatly helps.

Psychological improvements have been steep, the surgeons report in The Lancet, with most transplant recipients declaring a renewed sense of self and body image, showing fewer signs of depression, and experiencing fewer episodes of verbal outbursts than before their transplant. None had signs, as originally feared, of a "split" personality, in which they assumed their donor's identity. Indeed, donor family members say recipients do not even resemble their donors after the surgical transformation. Dr. Rodriguez attributes this to the rigorous psychological screening and counseling that preceded surgery.

Because facial transplantation is life-changing and not life-saving, Dr. Rodriguez points out that the procedure still raises grave concerns about the ethics of putting otherwise healthy, mostly young people on a lifetime regimen of toxic immunosuppressive drugs and at risk of potentially fatal infections and vital organ compromise.

"These moral considerations must be taken very seriously as the number of face transplants and medical centers equipped to perform them grows," says Dr. Rodriguez. "We have the medical ability to restore these people's lives. With some victims from fire, police and military armed services, it can be argued that we have a moral imperative to restore them to society."

Despite accelerated psychological recovery in many cases, physical recovery can take years, the surgeons report. While recipients claim feeling sensations of cold and heat as early as a few months after surgery, sensing touch and pain on the skin often takes eight months or longer, as does recipients' ability to open and close their mouths and move their lips.

For some, speech, smelling, chewing, and swallowing abilities can resume within months and rapi
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Contact: David March
david.march@nyumc.org
212-404-3528
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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