Dallas Wiens, whose face was severely disfigured in a power line accident, has undergone the first full face transplant in the USA at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. Dr. Bohdan Pomahac and a team of 30 doctors, anesthesiologists, residents and nurses participated in the operation of over 15 hours to replace Wiens’ nose, lips, facial skin, movement muscles and nerves. The procedure was paid for by the US Defense Department – a $3.4 million grant was given to the hospital for five transplants.

Wiens, 25, had said his dream was to be able to smile and feel the kisses from his 3-year-old daughter. The accident left him blind. The aim of the procedure was not to bring his eyesight back, he is still blind. Some parts of his left cheek and left forehead will only have partial sensation, the hospital informed, because some nerves had been too badly damaged.

The hospital said Wiens is in good condition. He was not present at the news conference today with Dr. Pomahac.

This is Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s second face transplant procedure.

Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said:

“Today’s tremendous news marks a new milestone in Brigham and Women’s legacy in transplant surgery. The pioneering achievement accomplished by the entire transplant team is a gift made possible by the most selfless act one human being can do for another, organ donation.

Richard S. Luskin, president and CEO of New England Organ Bank, said:

“This remarkable, anonymous gift is another example of the life-affirming power of organ and tissue donation. As always we are immensely grateful to the donor and the donor family for their generosity.”

The unidentified dead donor’s family had had conversations with New England Organ Bank employees – the family gave their consent to the donation.

The hospital informed in a communiqué that indicating in your driver’s license that you are registered as an organ donor is not enough for a face donation – the family has to give its consent.

Wiens will not resemble his old his self or the donor, Dr. Pomahac said. When the tissues are molded into a new person novel features are created.

Full face transplants have been performed so far in China, Spain, France and the USA.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is one of the pioneering centers of excellence in transplantation. In 1954 a kidney was transplanted from one brother to another by a medical team led by Dr. Joseph Murray, who received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1990. In 1984, the hospital performed its first successful heart transplant, and has carried out 600 such operations since then.

In 1992, BWH carried out its first heart-lung transplant. In 1995 it performed its first triple organ transplant, and in 2004 its first quintuple lung transplant in the USA. One hundred kidney transplants were performed for the first time in one year in 2008 – in that same year 30 lung transplants were carried out.

Surgery DW from BWH Public Affairs on Vimeo.

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Written by Christian Nordqvist