April 30, 2010 (Hollywood, FL) – Facial plastic surgeons who performed some of the world’s first facial transplants have come together for the very first time in Hollywood, Florida at the 10th International Symposium of Facial Plastic Surgery to share experiences and techniques with aspirations of standardizing this rare surgery that gives patients renewed hope in resuming a normal life. The first face transplant was performed five years ago in 2005 in France. Since then, 11 additional surgeries have been performed, including several in the United States.
Every four years, the meeting brings together world-class facial plastic surgeons from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the International Federation of Facial Plastic Surgery.
Three facial plastic surgeons – Dr. Benoît Lengelé of Brussels, Belgium, Dr. Daniel Alam of Cleveland, OH, and Dr. Bohdan Pomahac of Boston, MA – were featured on Thursday’s keynote presentation and were members of on the surgical teams that performed some of the world’s first face transplant surgeries. The physicians shared case studies using photos, videos and computer imaging to show their techniques and surgical procedures.
“The hope is that we can give life back, to give these patients way to face society,” says Dr. Daniel Alam. “Our goal is to give these people a return to the world of the living and to be an active participant.”
The physicians also explored challenges around this highly complex surgery with discussions ranging from how to identify the appropriate candidates for facial transplantation surgery to immunosuppressive issues and rejection of tissue. Ethical considerations were also discussed and included how to measure quality of life as well as the importance of establishing a standard of practice for this relatively new surgical procedure.
“It is important for us to closely collaborate with our colleagues so we are not reinventing the wheel,” says Dr. Pomahac. “We need to try to standardize the protocol.”
Physicians also shared their personal feelings about performing these surgeries, particularly what they unanimously agreed to be the “most dramatic” point of surgery: when the pale, lifeless allograft of the donor face comes to life on the patient, turning a shade of pink before their very eyes as the blood flow returns.
Allergan Medical sponsored the panel.
“Innovation is a central tenant of leadership in medicine,” says Jake Laban of Allergan Medical. “We share this spirit of innovation, and are proud to sponsor this historic gathering of the medical pioneers responsible for the development of this groundbreaking procedure. Our thanks go out to the leadership of the AAFPRS for facilitating this important meeting.”
Discussions also touched upon the importance of both functional and aesthetic improvement in evaluating an appropriate patient. However, physicians also agreed that patients overwhelmingly express concerns with the aesthetics, maintaining that their extensive injuries prevent them from being an active participant in society.
“Patients want to be able to speak to someone without being ostracized. They want to function as normally as possible,” says Dr. Pomahac. “Face transplants are not life saving procedures, they are life giving.”
The International Symposium of Facial Plastic Surgery continues through Sunday, May 2.
About the AAFPRS
The AAFPRS is the world’s largest association of facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons with more than 2,700 members – whose cosmetic and reconstructive surgery focuses on the face, head and neck. The AAFPRS fellows and members are board certified and subscribe to a code of ethics. In addition, the AAFPRS provides consumers with free information and brochures and a list of qualified facial plastic surgeons in any area by visiting the AAFPRS Web site, www.facemd.org.
About the IFFPSS
The International Federation of Facial Plastic Surgery Societies is a group of societies of facial plastic surgeons from various countries around the world. This Federation was formed in 1997 after extensive discussions initiated by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Member societies include: AAFPRS, ASEAN (Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery), Australasian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery, Brazilian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery, Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Colombian Society of Facial Plastic Surgery and Rhinology, European Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery, Mexican Society of Rhinology and Facial Surgery and the Taiwan Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.