In late September, the Cleveland Clinic, my “alma mater” performed their second face transplant. While it was almost 2 months ago, they’re just now starting to discuss the case. I saw a few of the staff plastic surgeons that trained me at the Cleveland Clinic during a plastic surgery meeting in mid-October and they didn’t say a word about it! I don’t blame them, they probably didn’t want to discuss the case at such an early point in the postoperative period.
The operation took 24.5 hours and involved about 12 surgeons in direct contact with the patient as well as specialists from anesthesia, bioethics, dentistry, ophthalmology and pretty much every other field of medicine. The transplant replaced about 90% of the recipient’s face, including the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw, upper teeth, facial nerves, salivary glands, facial muscles and skin. The patient’s original trauma was the result of a motor vehicle accident.
Check out this link from the Cleveland Clinic website that provides animation of the face transplant. While I understand animation is helpful for a visual understanding of the 24.5 hour procedure performed, the animation makes it look a little too simple!
It’s amazing that they performed a second face transplant but what’s more amazing is that this face transplant will be treated like the second moon landing – not a big deal and not a great deal of pomp and circumstance. I think it’s a clear sign that we take technology and medical advances for granted when a face transplant isn’t considered as miraculous as it once was!