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Monday 21st May 2018

First US face transplant

11th May 2009

A 46-year-old woman has become the first recipient of a near-total face transplant to be carried out in the United States.

heart surgery

Connie Culp was in good spirits as she appeared before the media for the first time following the operation, which took place at a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

During the operation, surgeons replaced 80% of Culp's face with that of a dead female donor.

Culp lost her ability to perform basic functions after her husband shot her in the face five years ago.

Culp told reporters she was grateful to the family of the dead woman for allowing the transplant to take place.

After the procedure, all patients have to take medication for the rest of their lives, which suppresses their immune system to prevent the transplanted skin being rejected.

Culp's was only the fourth face transplant ever to be carried out worldwide.

One previous recipient was a Chinese farmer; another was a French woman who was mauled by a dog.

Eleven surgeons laboured for 22-hours in Culp's transplant operation.

As a result, she is now able to breathe without a tube in her windpipe and eat normally.

Face transplant recipients do not end up looking like the donor of the face, because their bone structure alters the appearance of the face.

Culp was first examined by surgeon Risal Djohan two months after she had been shot. At the time, the surgeon was unsure if the tranplant would work, but thought it might.

Five years later, Culp quipped, she got her nose back.

The Ohio clinic's director of plastic surgery, Maria Siemionow, said Culp's life had been dramatically changed by the surgery.

Previously, her injuries had left her with no bone support, and "before" photographs showed Culp's face grotesquely folded up in the middle, with no nose or mouth.

During the operation, which Siemionow said was the most complex transplant completed to date, surgeons incorporated muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from a woman who had recently died.

Culp's nose, mouth, lips and chin were completely replaced, using tissue from the donor.

A French woman, Isabelle Dinoire, was the first woman to receive a face transplant in France three years ago, after being mauled by her dog.

A French man and a Chinese farmer received the next two face transplants, with the first French woman expressing satisfaction with the way the operation had gone.

Experts have warned of possible psychological side-effects, including remorse, grief and guilt towards the donor, and disappointment with the results.

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