In a landmark achievement, the very first successful face and double hand transplant has been completed by doctors at New York University's Langone Health.
“We’ve succeeded in a tremendous undertaking that shows we can continue to take on new challenges and advance the field of transplantation,” Dr Eduardo D Rodriguez, who has led at least four face transplant surgeries, remarked in an interview with NBC’s The Today Show.
The procedure was performed on a night shift worker from New Jersey named Joe DiMeo. He suffered third-degree burns on over 80% of his body after he suffered an accident commuting home from work and had to undergo surgery, which lasted 23 hours, last August.
His vehicle exploded in the accident and DiMeo spent more than four months in the burns unit of a hospital in New Jersey, including more than two months in a medically induced coma. He underwent more than two dozen reconstructive surgeries but had to remain on the donor registry for ten months before a donor could be found for a face transplant.
A Race Against Time
A team including over 140 healthcare professionals worked round the clock to ensure that the amount of time the donated tissue went without receiving blood supply was limited and transplanted both hands up to the mid-forearm. Transplants were also made on DiMeo's face, including the ears, eyebrows, eyelids, forehead, nose, lips, cheek and nasal and chin bone.
DiMeo will be able to perform normal functions such as feeding and dressing by himself after the operation, which lasted 23 hours. He has begun strength and resistance training using free weights.
"The rehabilitation demands on Joe are greater than any of our previous face transplant patients,” remarked Dr Rodriguez. “He’s completely focused on his goal of gaining greater independence and freedom.”
"Joe was an ideal candidate for this procedure; he’s extremely motivated and dedicated to recovering the independence he lost after his accident,” Rodriguez told The Today Show.