The world's first full face transplant has been successfully performed by Spanish doctors after a groundbreaking 22-hour operation.
A team of 30 Spanish doctors operated on a farmer who suffered a gunshot wound to the face causing severe disfigurement due to the complete loss of his nose, jaw and other parts.
The operation, carried out in Barcelona, is understood to be the first time an entire face – including the skin, muscles, teeth, lips, cheekbones and jaw – has been transplanted and reconstructed.
The operation, carried out on March 20th but only just revealed, used tissue from a brain-dead donor and involved removing the entire facial skin and muscles, nose, lips, palate, teeth, cheekbones, and the jawbone from a brain-dead donor.
The donor tissue was connected to the patient's own blood vessels, nerves and skin. Metal plates were used to support the structure of the new face, which included reconstructing the roof of the mouth.
Joan Pere Barret, who led the team of surgeons, said at a news conference that the procedure was a complete success and that the patient was recovering well in hospital with no sign of tissue rejection or infection.
Dr Barret said the new man's face did not resemble that of the anonymous donor, or his own features before the injury - it was, he said, "the face of a complete new human being".
The patient, who has not been identified, had been left unable to breathe, swallow, or talk properly after an accident five years ago. He was considered for a full face transplant after nine previous operations failed.
Dr Barret told the news conference the man has since seen himself in the mirror and was "calm and satisfied".
It is believed that the patient will remain in hospital for at least two months and will be closely monitored for four months after that. But he should be left with a normal appearance, without scars or distortions in the skin.
Another 10 face transplants have taken place across the world in France, America China and Spain, but this is the most complex operation to have taken place so far.
Britain is set to carry out its first transplant operation when the correct tissue becomes available for the Facial Transplantation Team, based at the Royal Free Hospital.