Face transplants to be offered at Boston hospital

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BOSTON (AP) – Brigham & Women’s Hospital has given a surgical team permission to perform partial face transplants to certain disfigured patients, according to a published report Sunday.

Brigham and Women’s is the second U.S. hospital to make public its plans to offer the controversial and rare medical procedure. The first is the Cleveland Clinic.

To date, only three partial face transplants have been announced worldwide. Two were performed in France, and one in China.

Critics argue that it’s unethical to expose patients to the risks of a transplant for a non-lifesaving procedure, but The Boston Globe reported that Brigham and Women’s would sanction transplants only for patients already taking immunosuppressant drugs. That would minimize the risk of tissue rejection and infection.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who is associate director of the hospital’s burn unit, said he’s motivated in part by the “helplessness I feel when I have a very difficult case.” He said he has seen four patients in recent years who might qualify.

Isabelle Dinoire received the world’s first partial face transplant. Dinoire was severely disfigured in May 2005 by her pet Labrador. In November 2005, surgeons grafted the lips, nose and chin of a brain-dead woman onto her face in groundbreaking surgery.

Dinoire’s immune system nearly rejected the transplant twice, but she was given immunosuppressants that helped overcome the threat.

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