3 Cleveland Clinic face transplant patients: How are they now? - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

3 Cleveland Clinic face transplant patients: How are they now?

Frank Papay, M.D., (center) directs Cleveland Clinic’s third face transplant. (Source: Cleveland Clinic) Frank Papay, M.D., (center) directs Cleveland Clinic’s third face transplant. (Source: Cleveland Clinic)
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

The Cleveland Clinic announced its third face transplant surgery was performed on a 21 year-old woman who had a gun shot wound to the face. This case was considered a total, not a partial, transplant which makes it the first ever for the Clinic

The first ever partial face transplant was performed at the Clinic was on Connie Culp in 2008, who suffered a gun shot wound to the face in a failed murder-suicide attempt by her husband.

The shotgun blast destroyed Culp's nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. She underwent 30 operations prior to the face transplant Her surgery was considered an 80 percent replacement. The Clinic said she is still doing very well. 

After the surgery, Culp regained the ability to smile, speak, and feel facial sensations due to the regrowth of facial nerves.

The second partial transplant at the Cleveland Clinic was for a middle aged man who suffered injuries in a car accident. He has chosen to stay private but we're told by the Clinic he also is doing very well. His nose was so badly disfigured that he no longer could smell, but regained the sense after the transplant. 

His surgery replaced about 90 percent of his face. For that surgery the Cleveland Clinic released an animation of what parts of the man's face were replaced by a donor's face.

In this latest surgery which took 31 hours, with 11 surgeons, back in May was for a 21 year-old woman who also suffered a gunshot wound to the face as a teenager. 

According to a release from the Clinic, "The surgery included transplantation of the scalp, the forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw and half of lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, facial muscles, and skin, effectively replacing 100 percent of the patient’s facial tissue."

While it is early in the recovery process the patient, who wants to remain private at this time, has said, "To reach this point of recovery has often times been a difficult road to travel, but I’m thankful there’s been a road – and Cleveland Clinic has been the vehicle to help drive me along." 

In all three cases the fear is the body rejecting the face transplant. According to the Clinic, there is always a chance but at this point all three recipients are doing well and will have to take medication for the rest of their lives to help avoid total rejection. 

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