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Risks Associated With Face Transplants May Be Lower Than Previously Thought, ASPS Journal Review Suggests

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Oct. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Face transplants, once on the fringe of medicine, may eventually become more mainstream because of new estimates that suggest the risk of tissue rejection might be lower than previously thought, according to a recent review in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery(R) (PRS), the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

"We can only know the true immunological risks associated with face transplants by carefully observing those who have already had the procedure," said ASPS President Roxanne Guy, MD. "While this paper doesn't provide conclusive evidence of the immunological risks, it will help us move forward in making face transplants part of mainstream medicine."

Currently, immunosuppressive drugs are the biggest barrier the medical community faces in performing any transplant because the potential long-term side effects of these medications can make the risk too great.

The authors suggest previous immunological risk projections are inaccurate because they were based on immunosuppression drug regimes that are different than the regimes that will be required of face transplant patients.

When utilizing an immunosuppressive drug regimen consistent with face transplant recipient requirements, the authors believe patients would have a relatively low risk of chronic or continual rejection after surgery -- less than 10 percent. In addition, advances in immunosuppression therapies have increased the capacity to manage face transplant patients and potentially reduce acute or immediate rejection episodes.

The authors also suggest that the immunological risks are lower because face transplant patients may on average be healthier and less likely to suffer from extenuating health issues. Organ transplant recipients, on the other hand, often are extremely sick and have numerous, pre-existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to the complications related to immunosuppressive treatment. For example, kidney transplant recipients commonly have hypertension, diabetes, anemia or bone disease. Face transplant recipients; however, may not be hindered by additional health concerns, lowering their risk.

Additionally, the human hand is comprised of similar tissue as the face. This has led plastic surgeons to hypothesize that face transplant patients would carry similar low risk of acute rejection as hand transplant recipients.

Visit for referrals to ASPS Member Surgeons and to learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises 90 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

SOURCE American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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