History of face transplants

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  • Face Transplant History
  • First Face Transplant for a Person of Colour

    Robert Chelsea, a 68 year old man from Los Angeles, becomes the first person of colour to receive a face transplant anywhere in the world.  He is also the oldest transplant recipient. After being injured in car fire in 2013 he waited over seven years for a skin colour match before his transplant took place at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  It is the 15th transplant in the USA, and the 9th at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Press release on Robert Chelsea, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

  • Second Face Transplant for Jérôme Hamon

    Jérôme Hamon receives a second face transplant after this first (transplanted in June 2010) fails. His surgeon is Laurent Lantieri, who performed the original operation, and who has conducted seven other face transplants in France since 2008. 

    Tanguy Garrel-Jaffrelot, ‘Frenchman is first in world to get 2 full face transplants,’ 19 April 2018, New York Times

  • Katie Stubblefield Receives Face Transplant

    21 year old Katie Stubblefield becomes the youngest person to receive a face transplant in the USA, and only the 7th woman worldwide. Her experiences of transplant are captured by a National Geographic team that follow her progress in the year leading up to the operation and then afterwards. 

    Environmental Portrait of Katie at the Ronald McDonald House face transplant photo taken for Jennifer Guerrieri of Corporate Communication

    Joanna Connors, ‘How a transplanted face transformed Katie Stubblefield’s life’, September 2018, National Geographic.

  • Death of Isabelle Dinoire

    The world’s first face transplant recipient, Isabelle Dinoire, dies at the age of 49 (although her death isn’t announced until six months later).  Her death from cancer is partially attributed to the side effects of the immunosuppression medication she has taken for over 10 years. 

    BBC news piece, September 2016.

  • First ‘Emergency’ Face Transplant

    Grzegorz Galasiński, a Polish stonemason, receives the world’s first ‘emergency’ face transplant after an industrial accident. The operation takes place within three weeks of injury and is the country’s first procedure.  Surgeon Adam Maciejewski reports that the operation is life-saving. 

    Sydney Lupkin, ‘Polish face transplant patient goes home,’ 30 July 2013, ABC News.

  • Turkey’s First Full Face Transplant

    Turkey’s first face transplant is performed at Akdeniz University’s School of Medicine. The recipient Ugur Acar is the youngest in the world at the age of 19. Unlike all previous face transplant patients he had lived with his facial difference all his life, having received facial burns in an accident when he was only 40 days old.  Over the next two years six further transplants take place in Turkey, but none since 2013. 

    Teenager who underwent face transplant operation sees himself in the mirror for the first time, Daily Mail, 13th February 2012.

  • First Full Face Transplant in the USA

    A team of over 30 people conducts the first full face transplant in North America, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, led by Bohdan Pomahac. The recipient is Dallas Wiens, a 25 year old man who had received full facial burns as a result of an accident with an electricity cable.  The transplant is funded by a $6.4m grant from the Department of Defense awarded to the hospital in 2009, to fund 10 face transplants over 10 years. The objective is to investigate the usefulness of the surgery for veterans. In 2014 they received a further $2.4m to support the programme. Between 2009 and 2020 they have conducted nine transplants.

    ( lightchaser photography image by j. kiely jr. © 2011 )

    Dallas Wiens describes his full face transplant, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

  • First Full Face Transplant

    The first full face transplant, including all soft tissues and the underlying bone structure, takes place at the University Hospital Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona. The recipient is a 31 year old farmer, known only as Oscar, who was injured when he accidentally shot himself in the face in 2005.  It was third face transplant to take place in Spain, and the 12th in the world. 

    Barret, J. P., Gavaldà, J., Bueno, J., Nuvials, X., Pont, T., Masnou, N., … Martínez-Ibáñez, V. (2011). Full face transplant: The first case report. Annals of Surgery, 254(2), 252–256

  • First Face Transplant in the USA

    Connie Culp receives the first face transplant in the USA. A team led by Maria Siemionow conducts the operation, nearly four years after having received ethical approval to do so. Connie had received her facial injury when she was shot in the face by her ex-husband in 2004. In 2010 she became the first face transplant recipient to meet the family of her donor. 

    First press conference with Connie Culp, 5th May 2009, AP.

  • Ethical Approval Granted in the UK

    Peter Butler receives ethical approval to carry out four face transplants at the Royal Free Hospital in London. This comes one day before Royal College of Surgeon’s Working Party release a second report on the procedure. They are still cautious but pragmatically outline a list of preconditions for any team working in the area. Butler’s programme doesn’t go live for another three and a half years due to procedural and legal challenges, and finishes in late 2011 before any transplants are performed. 

    World’s first full-face transplant likely in UK | New Scientist. (n.d.)

  • The World’s Second Face Transplant

    A 32 year old Chinese man, Li Guoxing, who had been mauled by a bear, receives the world’s second face transplant at Xijing Hospital.  However, he dies two years later in April 2008, apparently because he stopped taking his immunosuppressant medication. As far as we are aware no further face transplants have taken place in China. 

    Jordan Lite, ‘Chinese face-transplant recipient has died,’ Scientific American, 22 December 2008. 

  • First Partial Face Transplant

    Isabelle Dinoire, a 38 year old French woman, receives the first partial face transplant at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire of Amiens. The team is led by Bernard Devauchelle and Jean-Michel Dubarnard.  Soon afterwards the media will discover that Dinoire was injured after trying to take her own life, and that the donor of the face had also died by suicide. 

    Photograph of medical packs

    Craig S. Smith, ‘Dire wounds, a new face, a glimpse in the mirror,’ The New York Times, 3rd December 2005.

  • Ethical Approval is Granted in the USA

    Maria Siemionow’s team at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA, becomes the first in the world to receive ethical approval for human face transplantation. By September 2005 it’s reported that they have screened 9 potential candidates. 

    Dan Glaister, “US doctors prepare for first human face transplant,” The Guardian, 19 September 2005.

  • American Journal of Bioethics

    A special issue of the American Journal of Bioethics (Vol 4, Iss 3) brings together surgeons, researchers, ethicists and psychologists to debate barriers to face transplants and how they could be overcome.

  • Ethical Questions in the USA

    John H. Barker of Louisville University in Kentucky, USA announces his intention to submit an application for ethics approval to conduct a face transplant at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville. His team later withdraws their application in the face of concern about the ethical, legal and moral implications of the procedure. 

    David Concar, “The boldest cut,” The New Scientist 182, 2449 (May 29-Jun 4 2004): 32-37

  • Risk vs Benefit

    The National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences of France turns down an ethics application for five face transplants made by Paris-based surgeon Laurent Lantieri. They cite similar concerns to the Royal College of Surgeons, concluding that the risks outweigh the benefits for the patient. 

    A photograph of surgeons in an operating theatre

    Xavier Bosch, “Surgeon denied ethics approval for face transplantation,” The Lancet, 363 (9412) (2004): 871

  • A ‘Moratorium’ on Face Transplants in the UK

    The Royal College of Surgeons issue their first report on facial transplantation, which strongly advises that the surgery should not go ahead without further research. It is widely circulated, and discussed internationally. Newspaper reports suggest it is a ‘moratorium’ on face transplants in the UK. The report particularly focused on issues around immunosuppression, informed consent and the psychological impacts on the recipient. 

    Peter J. Morris, J.A. Bradley, L. Doyal, M. Earley, P. Hagan, M. Milling, and N Rumsey, “Facial transplantation: A working party report from the Royal College of Surgeons of England,” Transplantation, 77 (3) (2004)

  • Face Transplant Research Progresses

    A research team at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, led by Maria Siemionow, reports on successful face transplant research in rats. It suggests that the immunosuppressant regime used in hand transplantation can be transferred to the face.  The team includes Selahattin Ozmen who will go on to lead the third face transplant in Turkey in 2012. 

    Photograph of a surgery taken through an operating theatre window

    Window view into an operating theatre, UK. Credit: Adrian Wressell, Heart of England NHS FT. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

    Betul G Ulusal, Ali E. Ulusal, Ali E., Selahattin Ozmen, James E. Zins & Maria Z. Siemionow, “A New Composite Facial and Scalp Transplantation Model in Rats,” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 112(5) (2003)

  • Royal College of Surgeons Working Group

    Invasive press coverage about the identities of potential face transplant patients, and about the moral and ethical implications of the surgery, leads UK charity Change Faces to write to the Royal College of Surgeons requesting a review of the procedure.  The College convenes a working group of expert surgeons, psychologists and ethicists who hear evidence from a range of people, including Peter Butler.

    Photograph of an empty operating theatre

  • ‘Transplant surgeons look future in the face’

    Peter Butler gives a paper on facial transplantation at the British Association of Plastic Surgeons winter conference. An article appears in The Observer newspaper on the Sunday before, making public Butler’s development of a face transplant programme at the Royal Free Hospital in London for the first time. The media interest is unprecedented. 

    Photograph of a stack of newspapers

    Jo Revill, “Transplant surgeons look future in the face,” The Observer, 24th November 2002.

  • ‘Face Transplantation – Fantasy or Future?’

    Peter Barker and Shehan Hettiaratchy publish an article in the Lancet setting out the viability of facial transplantation. Butler and Hettiaratchy were both London-based surgeons who had spent time training in the USA. 

    Shehan Hettaratchy and Peter Butler, “Face Transplantation – Fantasy or Future?” The Lancet, 360 (9326) (2002): 5-6.

  • ‘The face is just like a hand’

    The BBC carries a story about the Lyon hand transplant, with a quote from US-based surgeon and researcher John H. Barker anticipating the face as the next innovative transplants. He famously stated that ‘a face is just like a hand.’ 

    BBC News, “From hand to face,” 30 Sep 1998

  • First Hand Transplant

    First hand transplant carried out in Lyon, France, led by Australian surgeon Earl Owen and French surgeon Jean-Michel Dubernard. Duburnard would later be part of the first face transplant team. Several face transplant pioneers cite this as the moment when face transplant began to seem viable. However, the recipient Clint Hallam, an Australian, had his transplant removed two and a half years later in London, on 2nd February 2001. He had not gained good function and stopped taking his immunosuppressant medication. 

    Lawrence K. Altman, “A short, speckled history of a transplanted hand,” The New York Times, 27 February 2001.

  • First Larynx Transplant

    The first larynx transplant takes place at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. This was a key staging point in the development of face transplantation. Cleveland Clinic would carry out the first US-based face transplant 10 years later.



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