UCL News


The world's first face transplant

1 December 2005

A woman of 36 who was savaged by a dog has become the first recipient of a face transplant.

She lost her nose, lips and chin in the attack. A team of specialists carried out the surgery at a hospital in Amiens in northern France at the weekend. …

The woman has come through the first 48 hours when the risk of her body rejecting the transplant was greatest ….

If there are serious complications the tissue will have to be removed and even if the operation is a success she will have to remain on drugs to suppress her immune system for the rest of her life. Scientists around the world immediately hailed the operation as one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 21st century.

Professor Peter Butler (UCL Surgery) consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, has been researching the methods and psychological impact of such an operation with the hope of carrying out the surgery here.

He said: "It is a great step forward for European science and medicine."…

In London, Professor Butler hopes the advance will pave the way for others to develop the technique and transform the lives of patients living with severe facial deformity.

He said: "It is a relief for me and will make it easier for others now. We have been progressing quite slowly and for me it doesn't change the time scale but it will be beneficial ethically."

Four teams around the world have been working towards carrying out the procedure.

The efforts in the UK were effectively stalled in 2003 when the Royal College of Surgeons said the psychological impact if the surgery failed would be "immense" and said that more research was needed. …

Four teams, in Louisville in Kentucky, Cleveland in Ohio, London, and Paris.

Professor Peter Butler, based at the Royal Free in Hampstead, has been carrying out extensive research on the psychological impact, how to select a patient and identity issues.

Rebecca Smith, 'The Evening Standard', 30 November 2005