Accelerated chronic skin changes without allograft vasculopathy: A 10-year outcome report after face transplantation

Surgery. 2020 Jun;167(6):991-998. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2020.01.010. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


Background: Long-term outcomes after face transplantation are rarely reported in the scientific literature. Here we present outcome data of a partial face allograft recipient 10 years after transplantation.

Methods: Medical records were reviewed for functional and psychosocial outcomes as well as complications. Histopathologic analyses of autopsy tissues and characterization of skin immune cells were performed.

Results: The patient retained long-term motor and sensory function, though with a noticeable drop in sensory function after year 5. Social reintegration of the patient was marked by reconnection with his family and participation in public social activities. Immunosuppressive therapy consisted of tacrolimus (target levels 6-8 ng/mL after the first year), mycophenolate, and prednisone, while steroids were completely weaned between years 1 and 7. One acute cellular rejection episode of grade II or higher occurred on average per year and led to chronic skin changes (papillary dermal sclerosis with superficial hyalinization, epidermal thinning with loss of rete ridges, perieccrine fibrosis), but the allograft vessels, muscles, adipose tissue, and bone were spared. Allograft skin was characterized by increased number of CD4+ TNF-α/IL17A producing T-cells as compared with native skin. Long-term kidney function was maintained at 60 mL/min estimated glomerular filtration rate. Unfortunately, the preexisting hepatitis C virus infection with liver cirrhosis was resistant to 3 treatments with new direct-acting antivirals and eventually hepatocellular carcinoma developed, causing the patient's death 10 years after transplantation.

Conclusion: This report suggests that face transplants can maintain their function for at least 10 years. Chronic skin changes can occur independently of allograft vasculopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • CD4 Antigens / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / virology
  • Facial Transplantation*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Transplant Recipients*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • CD4 Antigens
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Interleukin-17
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha