Polish doctors claim first life-saving face transplant

Polish doctors claim first life-saving face transplant

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Polish doctors claim first life-saving face transplant

The 27-hour operation was performed just weeks after the accident. It reconstructed the face, jaws, palate and the bottom of the man’s eye sockets. AFP photo

Polish doctors carried out the world’s first life-saving face transplant, the center’s spokeswoman said May 22, weeks after a 33-year-old man was disfigured by a machine in a workplace accident. “It is Poland’s first face transplant and also the first in the world done to save the patient’s life,” Anna Uryga, spokeswoman for the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in the southern city of Gliwice, told AFP.

The man, an employee at a stonemason’s workshop and only identified as Grzegorz, was severely maimed on April 23, when a machine used to cut stone ripped out a large chunk of his face. An attempt to reattach it failed, though it saved the man’s vision and and a part of his face, and because of the breadth and depth of the lesions “his life was on the line”, Uryga said.

With time of the essence, doctors were lucky to find a donor within two weeks, a man in his thirties whose family immediately agreed to the operation. The heart and liver of the deceased man were also donated to two other people.

‘Condition still serious’

A team of doctors at the center, the only one licensed to perform face transplants in Poland, performed the 27-hour facial surgery on May 15, with the patient’s full consent.

“He and his family approved the action plan and the associated risks. He was even enthusiastic,” head doctor Adam Maciejewski told reporters. Now, a week later, “his condition is still serious because it was a huge operation,” the doctor added.

French doctors carried out the world’s first successful face transplant in 2005 Since then, over 20 other transplants have been carried out in Turkey, Belgium, Spain, and the US.