The Helsinki Face Transplantation: Surgical aspects and 1-year outcome

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2018 Feb;71(2):132-139. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2017.10.007. Epub 2017 Nov 15.


Background: Since 2005, at least 38 facial transplantations have been performed worldwide. We herein describe the surgical technique and 1-year clinical outcome in Finland's first face transplant case.

Methods: A 34-year-old male who had a severe facial deformity following ballistic trauma in 1999 underwent facial transplantation at the Helsinki University Hospital on 8th February 2016. Three-dimensional (3D) technology was used to manufacture donor and recipient patient-specific osteotomy guides and a donor face mask. The facial transplant consisted of a Le Fort II maxilla, central mandible, lower ⅔ of the midface muscles, facial and neck skin, oral mucosa, anterior tongue and floor of mouth muscles, facial nerve (three bilateral branches), and bilateral hypoglossal and buccal nerves.

Results: At 1-year follow-up, there have thus far been no clinical or histological signs of rejection. The patient has a good aesthetic outcome with symmetrical restoration of the mobile central part of the face, with recovery of pain and light touch sensation to almost the entire facial skin and intraoral mucosa. Electromyography at 1 year has confirmed symmetrical muscle activity in the floor of the mouth and facial musculature, and the patient is able to produce spontaneous smile. Successful social and psychological outcome has also been observed. Postoperative complications requiring intervention included early (nasopalatinal fistula, submandibular sialocele, temporomandibular joint pain and transient type 2 diabetes) and late (intraoral wound and fungal infection, renal impairment and hypertension) complications.

Conclusion: At 1 year, we report an overall good functional outcome in Finland's first face transplant.

Keywords: Face transplant; Facial VCA; Facial allotransplantation; Vascularized composite allotransplantation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Facial Injuries / surgery*
  • Facial Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Facial Transplantation / methods*
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery*