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Impossible Medicine
Spring 2011

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surgeon in blue scrubs, face mask, and surgical hat, striding through a lab while carrying a cooler
FAST ACTING: Bohdan Pomahac carries donor tissue for the country's first full-face transplant into an operating room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
 

In March, a brigham and women’s hospital plastic surgery team performed the country’s first full-face transplant. Led by Bohdan Pomahac, an HMS assistant professor of surgery, a team of more than 30 surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and residents worked for more than 15 hours to replace the facial area of patient Dallas Wiens, including his nose, lips, skin, facial-animation muscles, and nerves powering those muscles. Wiens, a 26-year-old construction worker from Fort Worth, Texas, suffered fourth-degree burns over his entire face in 2008, when the cherry picker he was working in touched a high-voltage power line.

Pomahac declared the complex procedure “a resounding success,” adding that although it may take Wiens several months before he is fully able to move his facial muscles, he should make a full recovery. The surgeon followed that feat with a second full-face transplant just weeks later.

The surgeries marked additional milestones in the hospital’s legacy in transplant surgery. The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, one of three hospitals that merged to form Brigham and Women’s in 1980, made history in 1954, when a surgical team led by Joseph Murray ’43B, now an HMS professor of surgery emeritus, performed the world’s first successful human organ transplant.

A more recent milestone occurred in 2009, when another Brigham surgical team, also led by Pomahac, successfully performed the first partial face transplant in New England, only the second such procedure to be accomplished in the United States and the seventh such in the world.

Image: J. Kiely Jr./Lightchaser Photography

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Impossible Medicine
Spring 2011

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