How Does Face Transplant Work? Recovery Time And More


What is A Face Transplant

Face transplant is also called vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA). These terms all refer to the complicated sequence of actions needed to transplant a facial from someone else onto a donor.

VCA refers to the addition or transplantation of multiple tissues, such as skin, muscles, nerves, and bone.

How Does Face Transplant Work

It is the only body part that can use all five of your senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It’s also the window through which you can show everyone what you feel, whether happy or sad, angry or confused. Your face is the first thing people see.

What would you do if your face were to disappear? It seems impossible to imagine how this could occur, but it does happen in sporadic cases.

plastic surgery

People with severe burns, cancer treatment, or being attacked by an animal have often had some or all of their skin removed.

Many people with burns or cancer treatment are afraid of being ignored or harassed. Extreme facial deformity uses solely to treat skin grafts.

These involved taking skin tissue from the body, or a cadaver, then placing it on the affected areas. Grafts from the body, however, aren’t able to restore the skin’s appearance or movement and therefore don’t work in the same way.

There is an alternative way to fix severe facial damage. Modern medical technology allows doctors to donate part or all of a patient’s face. Further, face transplants are more realistic than skin transplants, but ethical and medical concerns exist.

Success Rate

The New England Journal of Medicine published the 2019 results of a study that followed six recipients of face transplants for five years after their surgeries.

Results showed that recipients could differentiate between hot and cold stimuli on their skin. The recipients also showed significant improvement in motor function, “reaching a median 60% of their maximum motor function after five years of follow-up.”

Success Rate of face transplant

Six participants had at least two to seven episodes or more of acute rejection, according to the NEJM study. Acute rejection can be the most severe side effect of face transplants. Further, it can lead to serious complications for the recipient.

Two failed transplants due to rejection, which eventually led to retransplants. These were the recipients:

  • Jerome Hamon was a French recipient who underwent a retransplant and experienced transplant rejection.
  • Carmen Tarleton is an American recipient who had her face transplanted after six years. Her body rejected the transplant again and received a second one.

A 2020 study found that signs of acute rejection include

  • Atypical skin redness erythema
  • edema
  • an eruptive skin rash exanthem
  • erythema alongside stitches
  • Wounds to the skin in the nose or mouth mucosal lesions

Acute rejection is most common in the first few months following the transplant. As time passes, the signs become more challenging to recognize. The study suggests that biomarkers can use to identify and diagnose face transplant rejection.

Recovery Time?

You must return to the hospital at least three months after leaving it. You will treat with physical therapy, mental evaluations, and blood tests.

man face

Every situation is different, but facial swelling should decrease within two to three months. Most importantly, the feeling should subside within six months. Within 12 months, most facial functions should return to your face.

Are They Possible?

In 2005, surgeons performed the first partial face transplant. Isabelle Dinoire from France was the recipient, and a dog had attacked her face. After 11 years of the operation, Dinoire died from cancer.

Other countries can offer the procedure after the first few operations

  • Between 2009 and 2013, 27 face transplants had performed in 21 hospitals across 11 countries.
  • In 2020, 46 people received face transplants. Two of these procedures were retransplanted.
  • Most surgeries carry in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.
  • Many of those who had facial transplants are still alive today. A 2021 study found that 81.2% of face transplant recipients were still living, and eight had died. Moreover, the study includes no information about the cause of death or any possible connection to face transplants.

Face Transplant Benefits and Risks


Face transplant surgery can have life-changing and unique benefits. These are just a few of the many benefits that face transplant surgery can bring

benefits of face transplant

Improved functionality Face transplant surgery can improve the functionality of a person’s face. It allows them to speak, breathe, smile, and express other emotions.

Restoration of appearance – Patients can have a face transplant to achieve a nearly normal appearance. Further, it allows them to feel confident in their ability to resume their previous lifestyles, such as jobs or social activities.


Rejections Even though it is unlikely, there is a possibility that the patient’s immune system will reject a facial transplant. If this occurs, the facial transplant will have to remove. There are two options: Conventional reconstructive facial surgery and another later facial transplant.

Identity Issues -The face is an integral part of one’s identity. There is concern that the patient might be upset by having to have their face changed. Further, our studies show that the donor’s appearance doesn’t transmit to the recipient. The recipient can recognize it immediately after the surgery.


How many face transplant surgeries have there been?

Since 2005, there have been 48 transplants for 46 recipients.

Is the face transplant on Grey’s Anatomy actual?

The story of a man who lost his entire face, including his nose, in “Grey’s Anatomy,” a popular TV drama. It was a drunk driver who caused the accident.

One of the stars of the TV show, a team of surgeons, performed a face transplant. Although the storyline inspires by early face transplantation surgery, it is essential to remember that this was a fictional tale.

Only one year before the premiere face transplant in America, it was performed at the Cleveland Clinic. These procedures were not attempted in the United States until a decade later.

Can you get a double hand and face transplant?

Yes, this combination of procedures has been performed on one individual. Joe DiMeo had a double-hand transplant and a face transplant in 2020.


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