You’ve probably heard in the news of groundbreaking facial transplants that have been performed, first in France in 2005. During my time at UCLA, I was also involved in the planning sessions for their face transplant team, which was amazing because it includes such meticulous and extensive work, before, during and after the transplant.
Recently, one of the American experts in the field, Dr. Julian Pribaz from Harvard, came to give a lecture at UCSF. He gave a great overview of the traditional reconstructive techniques, and how after a century, for some devastating and extensive injuries—deep facial burns, animal mauling injuries, shotgun blasts—those techniques are really not sufficient. For the rare person who has this kind of deficit, restoring the structure and delicate mechanisms of the face can allow them to have a more public life.
It made me proud to be a plastic surgeon – as one of his predecessors at Harvard, Dr. Joseph Murray, performed the first kidney transplant and won a Nobel prize for it. Plastic Surgery is fundamentally about solving problems, and when the problem is solved – it’s so rewarding! Thanks to Dr. Pribaz for visiting –
Facial transplantation is still experimental surgery. For more information on some of the patients who have undergone this transformative reconstruction, see these accounts in The New Yorker and GQ.