Current Principles of Facial Allotransplantation: The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Experience

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Facial allotransplantation is a revolutionary operation that has at last introduced the possibility of nearly normal facial restoration to patients afflicted by the most severe cases of facial disfigurement.


The facial transplantation team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital evaluated more than 20 patients as potential face transplant recipients; of these, six became face transplant candidates and underwent full screening procedures. The team performed facial allotransplantations in four of these patients between April of 2009 and May of 2011. This is the largest clinical volume of facial transplant recipients in the United States to date.


The authors have learned important lessons from each of these four unique cases and from the more than 20 patients that they have evaluated as potential face transplant recipients. The authors have translated lessons learned through direct experience into a set of fundamental surgical principles of the operation.


The authors’ surgical principles emphasize safety, technical feasibility, preservation of functional facial units, and return of motor and sensory function. This article describes each of these principles along with their rationale and, in some instances, illustrates their application.

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