Facial transplantation: worth the risks? A look at evolution of indications over the last decade

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The first face transplant was performed 10 years ago by Dubernard and his team in France. Since then, surgeons have continued to push the frontiers of vascularized composite allotransplantation and broaden the indications for face transplantation. In this review, we summarize some of the recent successes and failures in facial transplantation from the point of view of indications.

Recent findings

Recent literature includes case reports on face transplants in sensitized patient, with simultaneous bilateral upper extremity transplants, positive HIV status, and postmalignancy. Additionally, we summarize some of the outcomes of face transplants, including chronic rejection and latent viral infections.

Summary

Facial injuries vary widely, thus candidacy for face transplant should be assessed based on current guidelines, and a case-by-case basis. Although sensitization to donor-specific antigens should not be an absolute contraindication for facial allotransplantation, along with other comorbidities such as positive HIV status, history of malignancy should be evaluated cautiously. Additionally, multiple case studies advice against simultaneous transplantation of multiple vascularized composite allotransplantations. Other considerations include psychological health, social support, and availability for long-term follow-up. Ultimately, face transplant is not simply a surgery; it is a lifelong commitment between a patient and his/her medical team.

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