Facial Transplantation for an Irreparable Central and Lower Face Injury: A Modernized Approach to a Classic Challenge

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2019 Aug;144(2):264e-283e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000005885.


Background: Facial transplantation introduced a paradigm shift in the reconstruction of extensive facial defects. Although the feasibility of the procedure is well established, new challenges face the field in its second decade.

Methods: The authors' team has successfully treated patients with extensive thermal and ballistic facial injuries with allotransplantation. The authors further validate facial transplantation as a reconstructive solution for irreparable facial injuries. Following informed consent and institutional review board approval, a partial face and double jaw transplantation was performed in a 25-year-old man who sustained ballistic facial trauma. Extensive team preparations, thorough patient evaluation, preoperative diagnostic imaging, three-dimensional printing technology, intraoperative surgical navigation, and the use of dual induction immunosuppression contributed to the success of the procedure.

Results: The procedure was performed on January 5 and 6, 2018, and lasted nearly 25 hours. The patient underwent hyoid and genioglossus advancement for floor-of-mouth dehiscence, and palate wound dehiscence repair on postoperative day 11. Open reduction and internal fixation of left mandibular nonunion were performed on postoperative day 108. Nearly 1 year postoperatively, the patient demonstrates excellent aesthetic outcomes, intelligible speech, and is tolerating an oral diet. He remains free from acute rejection.

Conclusions: The authors validate facial transplantation as the modern answer to the classic reconstructive challenge imposed by extensive facial defects resulting from ballistic injury. Relying on a multidisciplinary collaborative approach, coupled with innovative emerging technologies and immunosuppression protocols, can overcome significant challenges in facial transplantation and reinforce its position as the highest rung on the reconstructive ladder.

Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, V.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Facial Injuries / diagnosis
  • Facial Injuries / surgery*
  • Facial Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Facial Transplantation / methods*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forensic Ballistics
  • Graft Rejection
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Patient Care Team
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents