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U.S. Doctors Behind Face Transplants Give Details of Procedure
Date:12/29/2011

," Pomahac said. After the transplant is complete, surgeons must be on the lookout for any signs of rejection and other side effects, such as infection. These risks are highest during the first 24 hours after surgery. "There can be clotting in the vessels that are re-connected, and we use high doses of immune suppression for a first couple of days so the patient is more susceptible to infection," he explained.

In the beginning, the patient's new face is swollen and has no motion. "Most of the swelling goes down in six weeks and then you regain motor function in three to six months," he said. Many of these patients are eating within a few days. "They get better and better each time we see them," he said.

Unlike in the movies, the patient does not wake up with the face of the donor, Pomahac stressed. Instead, the new face is more of a hybrid between donor and recipient. "It is surprisingly easy to get used to," he said. "They have new faces, but they still have a way of speaking and have the same body language."

Another study author , Dr. Daniel S. Alam, is the head of the section of facial aesthetic and reconstructive surgery in the Head and Neck Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. He said the new article is important because it is the first time face transplants have been reported as a series of cases.

Alam was involved with Nash's surgery, and also performed the first U.S. face transplant -- on gunshot victim Connie Culp, in December of 2008.

"Five years ago, we didn't know if this could be done. Full face transplants can be done technically, they can be done safely and patients can get a lasting benefit," he said. The new study's publication marks "the end of the first chapter and now we need Chapter Two, to see who is the right patient and work toward making the surgery better and better," Alam said.

That remains a work in progress. "Surgeons have been taking gall bladders out for years [for example], but we are
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