The first patient to undergo a full face transplant appeared in public today, the first time since his 24-hour operation at University Hospital Vall d’Hebron in March. A 31 year-old Spanish farmer identified only as Oscar, he had been unable to breathe or eat on his own after accidentally being shot in the face five years ago. He had received nine failed operations before being considered for the transplant.
Though the result is undoubtedly disconcerting, it’s a real medical miracle. Oscar has been able to speak for the last two months, and can reportedly drink liquids and eat soft foods as well.
Though the first successful partial face transplant occured over 5 years ago, there’s been considerable progress since: First Oscar’s operation–during which doctors lifted a face with entire facial skin and muscles, nose, lips, maxilla, palate, teeth, cheekbones, and the mandible, and placed it like a mask onto the man using plastic surgery and micro-neurovascular reconstructive surgery techniques–and not too soon after in June, the world’s first successful face transplant with tear ducts.
Oscar has regained feeling in his face and partial muscular movement. The head surgeon, Dr. Joan Barret, said that he will need up to one and a half years of physical therapy, and should regain up to 90 percent of his facial functions.
The AP reports that the patient “spoke with considerable difficulty,” but “seemed relaxed.”
Prior to Oscar’s surgery, experts had to discuss the psychological aspects of the transplant, as it would likely be a stressful recuperation period dealing with seeing a face in the mirror that is not seemingly one’s own.
We’ve included a video from the BBC (via Gawker):
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