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Johns Hopkins Establishes Facial Transplant Service - 08/15/2012

Johns Hopkins Establishes Facial Transplant Service

Release Date: August 15, 2012

The Johns Hopkins University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has formally approved plans submitted by Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to begin performing facial transplants.  The approval, granted in late July, allows the hospital’s facial transplantation team to begin accepting patients for this surgery – for the very first time.

Facial transplant surgery, considered one of the most complicated medical procedures, replaces all or part of a person's face with facial tissue from a deceased human donor. The operation, performed a total of just six times in the United States, requires advance IRB approval of the team of specialists and their approach to securing donors, selecting patients, providing follow-up care and other surgical plans. The surgery — an innovative reconstructive procedure that has the potential to substantially improve the lives of patients with severe facial injuries — can only take place with IRB approval.

“Facial transplants have the potential to transform the lives of people with severe facial injuries, and we are privileged to have the opportunity to care for them,” says W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins. “We will now begin to recruit and screen appropriate candidates for surgery.”

The Johns Hopkins team, led by Lee, includes Chad Gordon, D.O., assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery; Patrick Byrne, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery; and Gerald Brandacher, M.D., visiting associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery.  “Each member of our team has unique expertise in reconstructive and transplant surgery that, in combination, gives us the depth and breadth of experience to perform this kind of surgery,” says Lee.

Gordon, who will serve as clinical director of the Johns Hopkins craniomaxillofacial transplantation program, was a team surgeon in the nation’s first nearly full-face transplant at Cleveland Clinic, and helped lead the development of the facial transplant protocol effort at Hopkins.  Byrne, director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the director of the microvascular head and neck reconstructive surgery service at Hopkins, will provide complementary skills and experience in head and neck surgery.  Brandacher, director of the Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA) research laboratory at Hopkins, will oversee basic and translational research efforts related to reconstructive transplantation.

Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins: