Polish man gets face transplant just three weeks after injury

  • Updated: May 22, 2013 - 8:28 PM

– A 33-year-old Polish man received a face transplant just three weeks after being disfigured in a workplace accident, in what his doctors said Wednesday is the fastest time frame to date for such an operation. It was Poland’s first face transplant.

Face transplants are extraordinarily complicated and relatively rare procedures that usually require extensive preparation of the recipient over a period of months or years. But medical officials said the Polish patient’s condition was deteriorating so rapidly that a transplant was seen as the only way to save his life. The patient is now being watched for any potential infections.

In a photo taken Tuesday, just six days after the surgery, the patient, identified only by his first name, Grzegorz, was shown giving a thumbs-up sign from his hospital bed.

He was injured in an April 23 accident at his job at a stone mason’s workshop near the southwestern city of Wroclaw when a machine used to cut stone tore off most of his face and crushed his upper jaw. The damage was too extensive for doctors to temporarily seal the exposed areas of his brain.

So he was taken to the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, the only place in Poland licensed to perform face transplants. The center has experience in facial reconstruction for patients disfigured by cancer and its experts have practiced face transplants on cadavers.

The head of the team of surgeons and other specialists, Dr. Adam Maciejewski, said it was the first time a face transplant was carried out so soon after the damage. Face transplants are usually a last resort after conventional reconstructive and plastic surgeries have been tried. “We assume the surgery will allow the patient to return to normal life,” Maciejewski said. “He will be able to breathe, to eat, to see.”

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