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Reconstructive Surgery Changes Trauma Victims’ Lives

May 7th 2012 at 10:56 PM

Plastic and reconstructive surgeries can be commonly associated, or fall under the category of elective surgeries because most patients have it for cosmetic reasons. What most people miss out on is the fact that there is a need for these types of surgeries. For instance, trauma or accident victims who sustain injuries that cause problems with eating or breathing, would most probably have reconstructive surgery to help them live, and not merely because they look unappealing. This is the case of a gunshot victim who had a second chance in life when he underwent a full face transplant.

Richard Norris, a 37-year old man who suffered severe damage to his face after shooting himself in 1997, opened his eyes to a new face after the 36-hour procedure performed at Baltimore’s Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Considered as the world’s most comprehensive face transplant, it involved the transplantation and repair of Mr. Norris’ neck, jaw, teeth, tongue, scalp and all tissues and muscles located in these areas.

Due to the gunshot wound, he lost control of the movement of his lips and mouth, giving him a hard time eating and speaking. Furthermore, the damage to his neck affected the muscles and nerves that enable a person to talk so he had to use a device that would have his words spoken out of it instead of his mouth. In addition to this, he also had to live as a recluse and wear a mask, which he only removes at night so as not to scare people away during broad daylight. However, people would still stare at him and wonder as to the extent of his injuries. This was his life for 15 years until he had this surgery done. Needless to say, the life of Mr. Norris was turned upside down because of his injuries and the success of the face transplant gave him a surge of hope.

Eduardo Rodriguez, MD, DDS, head of the surgical team and an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland (UMD) School of Medicine, as well as the trauma center’s chief of plastic, reconstructive and maxillofacial surgery, still cannot believe that the surgery was a success. With at least 100 medical health practitioners present during the operation, the delicate state and complexity of the procedure cannot be overemphasized. The surgical team harvested the needed muscles, bones and nerves from a donor patient and transferred these to Mr. Norris’ face. With just 6 days after the surgery, Mr. Norris’ can already open his eyes, shave and brush his teeth. The rate of his recovery is very fast and unexpected, according to Dr. Rodriguez.  He said that the goal of the operation was to restore function with aesthetically accepted results which seems to be very possible at the moment.

Aside from being the most comprehensive face transplant ever done, the operation also seems to be the most aesthetically successful. Pieces of evidence came from x-rays, photographs, and 3D holograms of his bone structure before and after the surgery. The success of the procedure didn’t happen without any help. Funding for the meticulous operation came from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to aid UMD in helping war veterans who were injured by explosives during wars.

With just weeks after the success of Mr. Norris’ operation, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have also formed their face transplant team and applied to perform face transplantation to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Whether the operation’s success influenced it or not, it can be expected that face transplant will be made available for those in need.

 

NOTE : This Article is originally posted by plasticsurgeryblog.

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