New York Firefighter Receives Most Complex Face Transplant Ever Performed

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 - 1:14PM
Medical Tech
Tuesday, 17 November 2015 - 1:14PM
New York Firefighter Receives Most Complex Face Transplant Ever Performed
A firefighter in New York has just received one of the first full face transplants, and the most complex one ever performed. After several months of observation, the procedure has been termed a "complete success." 

The recipient, Patrick Hardison, was severely injured while fighting a mobile home fire in 2001. He was trapped inside, and the flames melted his firefighter's mask on his face, leaving him unrecognizably disfigured. He received many reconstructive surgeries, more than 70 over the next decade, but the extent of the damage was such that he was still left without eyelids, ears, and many other facial features. 

Plastic surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez felt that Hardison needed a face transplant in order to improve his quality of life, but the procedure is incredibly risky. There is a 50/50 chance of rejection, in which the immune system recognizes the donor skin as a foreign invader and attacks it. As a result, finding a donor is an extremely tricky process, as the donor needs to have the same blood type, complexion, same size face, and similar height and weight, as well as certain genes in common. 

This past summer, David Rodebaugh was in a tragic BMX bike accident and was declared brain-dead. He was a match for Hardison, and his family agreed to the procedure. So on August 14, Hardison received his transplant, which took 26 hours and 100 people. One team removed Rodebaugh's entire face, including his entire scalp, eyelids, ears, veins, skin down to the neck, and forehead tissue, while another team did the same to Hardison. Surgeons then severed the veins and nerves connecting Rodebaugh's face to his body and reconnected it to Hardison's veins and nerves. 

via GIPHY



After 93 days, Hardison still has not rejected the foreign face, allowing the surgeons to declare the procedure successful. Only 28 facial transplants have ever been performed, and this was the first full facial transplant performed in New York. The surgery has greatly improved Hardison's quality of life, allowing him to blink for the first time in almost fifteen years.

Opening quote
"This is not an operation that's for everyone," Rodriguez said. "It's for very courageous individuals. But we have proved that the science is there."
Closing quote

Via Business Insider.
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