Doctor gives details of transplant operation in Turkey

Doctor gives details of transplant operation in Turkey

ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Doctor gives details of transplant operation in Turkey

Patient Hatice Nergis was given the face of Olga Ünal on March 17, 2012 at Ankara’s Gazi University, thus becoming Turkey’s third face transplant patient. DHA photo

The prosthetic face designed for Olga Ünal, the donor in Turkey’s third face transplant operation at Ankara’s Gazi University, was completed with unusual speed and accuracy despite the inadequacy of the equipment, according to Assistant Prof. Mustafa Kocacıklı. 

“The prosthetic face we put on Olga Ünal was identical to her own face, and its color also matched her own complexion. I tried to obtain a realistic tone for this by mixing different colors. Plastic surgeons planted this prosthesis over the face. It was reported in the press that her family did not notice any changes at the funeral,” said Kocacıklı, from Gazi University’s Faculty of Dentistry. 

Such a facial prosthesis would normally require about a week to produce, whereas it took only 125 minutes to complete the operation, he added. 

“I never encountered any other case in [medical] literature where [such an operation] was conducted with such speed and accuracy in matching the donor’s face. We are going to publish this in international magazines,” said Kocacıklı.

The donor’s funeral has to be handed over to the family with her bodily integrity intact, he said, adding that he was forced to use whichever devices were available to him, as the operation room lacked certain kinds of equipment. They made a mold of donor Olga Ünal’s face first in order to construct the prosthetic mask, according to Kocacıklı. 

He also reported that the health of patient Hatice Nergis, who received Olga Ünal’s face in Turkey’s third face transplant operation, was good enough for her to be discharged from hospital, but more was still needed to be done about the inside of her mouth.

“There is a fracture on the patient’s lower left chin. This has been attached with a plate ... A bone that will be removed off the patient’s rib will be shaped into the missing piece with a mold and transplanted on her chin. Once the bone takes hold, we are going to produce a dental prosthesis. This process could take up to six months because it takes time for the bone to knit,” Kocacıklı said.

The medical team who performed the surgery on March 17 partially transplanted Olga Ünal’s face onto Hatice Nergis, who had reportedly lost a large amount of tissue on her nose, upper chin, palate and upper lip following a gun accident in 2007. The partial face transplant is the third such operation to have taken place in Turkey since the start of this year.