The Helsinki approach to face transplantation

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2019 Feb;72(2):173-180. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2018.08.030. Epub 2018 Sep 22.


Aim: We herein describe the establishment of the Helsinki Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA) program and its execution in the first two face transplant cases.

Methods & patients: The Helsinki VCA program initially required the fulfillment of legal, hospital, financial, and ethical requirements. Thereafter, the assembling of a multidisciplinary team commenced. A team of Plastic, maxillofacial and ENT surgeons comprise the facial VCA team. The protocol involves collaboration with the Solid Organ Transplant (SOT) team, transplant immunology, immunosuppression, microbiology, psychiatric evaluation, well-defined VCA indications and informed consent. Between 2011 and 2017 two patients were selected for transplantation. Both patients had a severe composite facial deformity involving the maxilla and mandible following earlier ballistic injury.

Results: Patient 1 was a 35 year-old male who underwent successful near total face transplantation in February 2016 and at 30 months he has a good aesthetic outcome with symmetrical restoration of the central face and good sensory and symmetrical motor functional outcomes. Patient 2 was a 58 year-old male who underwent full face transplantation in March 2018 and at 5 months he has recovered without major problems.

Conclusion: A successful facial VCA program requires a well-prepared research protocol, experts from multiple specialties and careful patient selection. The establishment of the Helsinki VCA program required long and thorough planning and resulted in the first two Nordic face transplantation cases. This protocol now forms the platform (as a proof of concept) for other types of vascularized composite allotransplantations.

Keywords: Facial allotransplantation; Facial transplantation; VCA program.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Facial Transplantation*
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team / economics
  • Patient Care Team / ethics
  • Patient Care Team / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Treatment Outcome