May 25, 2024

Face transplants could become routine, say doctors

Some doctors still sceptical
Face transplants could become
routine, according to a survey of doctors who have successfully
performed three of the revolutionary procedures. Writing in The
Lancet, Dr Laurent Lantieri, a French doctor who operated on a man
severely disfigured by a genetic disease, says "There is no
reason to think these face transplants would not be as common as
kidney or liver transplants one day."

As with all transplants,
immunosuppressants are needed to keep the recipient’s body from
attacking the donated face. This appears to be under control. A
French patient whose face was chewed by a dog now takes only
three pills a day. "That’s less than most people with diabetes,"
said Lantieri.

However, it is still early days, and some doctors
are sceptical. There is an increased risk of cancer with
anti-rejection drugs and the face might also be destroyed within a
few years. Some doctors believe that the future of facial restoration
is stem cells, for which there is little risk of rejection.

A transplant surgeon in the UK,
Peter Butler, comments
in the London Times
that the
risks of the surgery are worth it, from the patient’s point of view.
There are an estimated 250,000 people in the Uk with severely
disfigured faces. “When assessed by people who do not have severely
disfigured faces, these risks would be perceived as unacceptable,”
he says. “Most patients with severe facial injury who seek this
type of surgery, however, have a poor quality of life. Some even
state that what they have is not a life but an existence.” He
points out that the three patients who have had face tranplants have
coped remarkably well with their new appearance, confounding
predictions that they would have psychological problems. ~ AP,
Aug 21