Someone severely disfigured by burns or disease could receive the first human face transplant using skin and underlying fat from an organ donor. The Cleveland Clinic said it is the first institution where the review board has approved the procedure, after 10 months debating medical, ethical and psychological issues for the risky operation. Several independent medical teams around the world also are pursuing the procedure.
"We are at this point ready to begin screening patients," said Dr. Maria Siemionow, the hospital's director of plastic surgery research and training in microscopic surgery, who advocated the procedure, informs USA Today.
According to Halifax Live, Doctors at the clinic said finding a donor cadaver might be more difficult than choosing a patient. They hope to perform the operation within the next two years.
Dr. Siemionow said the procedure has risks, including a 50 percent chance of rejection, something she says will be made known to any potential patient.
"It may not happen in our life, or it may happen sooner than you expect," Dr. Siemionow told the Associated Press.
Dr. Siemionow indicated she would start with a fairly simple procedure that would not involve transplanting muscles that shape the face. By starting off with transplanting only the skin and underlying fat the patient would not take on the appearance of the donor.
This is a risky procedure, says Siemionow. There is a 50% chance the patient will reject the new tissue. The chances of complications are high, she said.
Finding a patient could take a couple of years. Experts say that finding a suitable donor may take even longer.
This procedure has ethical implications, say experts. The operation is not a life saving one - it is, however, risky as the patient could reject the new tissue. In other words, it does not save someone's life, but it could risk someone's life, informs Medical News Today.