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50-hour face transplant recovers US man’s wounded face after 10 years

By: PTI | London |
Published:February 20, 2017 6:36 pm


Andrew Sandness: Before and after! (Source: AP) Before and after: Andrew Sandness (Source: AP)

Doctors in the US have successfully completed a near-total face transplant on a 32-year-old man during an extensive, life-changing surgery to improve his ability to chew, speak, breathe and smell. The face of recipient Andrew Sandness was devastated by a gunshot wound at the age of 21.

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The surgery, which spanned more than 50 hours, was carried last year and involved restoring Sandness’ nose, upper and lower jaw, palate, teeth, cheeks, facial muscles, oral mucosa, some of the salivary glands and the skin of the face. A multidisciplinary team of surgeons, physicians and health professionals used virtual surgical planning technology and 3D printing to optimise the aesthetic and functional outcomes of the surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.

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Sandness has been recovering in Rochester and likely will return home in eastern Wyoming this month, the team said. “I am absolutely amazed at the outcome so far. I am now able to chew and eat normal food, and the nerve sensation is slowly improving, too,” said Sandness.

Andy Sandness spoke to his father, Reed Sandness, and Dr Samir Mardini, before the face transplant procedure at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (Eric M. Sheahan/Mayo Clinic via AP) Andy Sandness spoke to his father, Reed Sandness, and Dr Samir Mardini, before the face transplant procedure. (Source: AP)

“Andy (Sandness) has been our patient for 10 years. He has worked so hard to prepare for this, and during his entire recovery period, he has been strong, gracious and determined. Andy is an amazing person and so well-deserving of this gift,” said Samir Mardini, the surgical director at Mayo Clinic Essam and Dalal Obaid Centre for Reconstructive Transplant Surgery.

Dr Samir Mardini shows Andy Sandness photos of his children on his smartphone before Sandness' face transplant surgery. (Source: AP) Dr Samir Mardini shows Andy Sandness photos of his children on his smartphone before Sandness’ face transplant surgery. (Source: AP)

Facial transplantation is the process of removing part or all of a donor’s face and attaching it onto a patient who has
previously suffered facial injury or deformity. Skin, fat, muscles, nerves, tendons, cartilage and bone may be the components of the transplant.

The medical team snapped as they perform the surgery at the medical center. (Source: AP) The medical team snapped as they perform the surgery at the medical center. (Source: AP)

Attaching nerves and blood vessels from the donor’s face to the recipient’s provides the potential (with extensive
rehabilitation) for sensation, function and mobility similar to an uninjured face. In some situations, it may allow the recipient to regain the ability to speak, chew food, avoid ongoing use of feeding tubes and regain their sense of smell.

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50-hour face transplant recovers US man’s wounded face after 10 years