Reporting Jessica Kartalija
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Doctors make medical history here in Baltimore. For the first time, Maryland surgeons transplant an entire human face.
Jessica Kartalija reports medical experts are calling it the most remarkable procedure they have ever seen.
A gunshot to Richard Lee Norris’ face in 1997 took his nose, lips and chin. Now, after a groundbreaking 36-hour procedure, surgeons used a donor’s skin from the scalp to the neck, including his jaw, tongue, teeth and facial tissue.
“The team used innovative surgical practices, as well as computerized techniques, to precisely and amazingly transplant the entire face,” said Dr. E. Albert Reece, Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
A team of more than 110 medical experts, including everyone from plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists and transplant surgeons, touched the patient over a period of five days.
“Ten divisions from the School of Medicine. Four or five hospital departments. It started with me admitting the donor. That’s 20 people that touched that patient,” said Thomas Scalea, University of Maryland. “This is the most remarkable thin I have ever seen.”
For years Norris has undergone several procedures, but until now hasn’t been able to function out of his home.
“Putting the muscles back together, putting the nerves, re-draping the face, ensuring that the hairline matched as ideal as possible and reconnecting the tongue,” said Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the lead surgeon. “Now came the final tailoring, which is the connection of the nerves, muscle and soft tissue, providing this drape of Mr. Richard Norris only six days after his surgical procedure.”
Now Norris can talk and brush his teeth, thanks to a procedure that’s expected to improve the lives of countless patients.
Twenty-two face transplants have been performed throughout the world. Five other organs were taken from the same donor and will be used to save the lives of others.