Brigham & Womens Hospital, Boston, has given a surgical team permission to perform partial-face transplants to certain disfigured patients, according to a published report.
Brigham and Womens is the second U.S. hospital to make public its plans to offer the controversial and rare medical procedure. The first is the Cleveland Clinic.
To date, only three partial-face transplants have been announced worldwide. Two were performed in France and one in China.
Critics argue that its unethical to expose patients to the risks of a transplant for a nonlifesaving procedure, but the Boston Globe reported that 746-bed Brigham and Womens would sanction transplants only for patients already taking immunosuppressant drugs. That would minimize the risk of tissue rejection and infection.
Bohdan Pomahac, who is associate director of the hospitals burn unit, said hes motivated in part by the helplessness I feel when I have a very difficult case. He said he has seen four patients in recent years who might qualify.
Isabelle Dinoire received the worlds first partial-face transplant. Dinoire was severely disfigured in May 2005 by her dog. In November 2005, surgeons grafted the lips, nose and chin of a brain-dead woman onto her face in groundbreaking surgery.
Dinoires immune system nearly rejected the transplant twice, but she was given immunosuppressants that helped overcome the threat. -- by the Associated Press