Cleveland Clinic built highly innovative lung and kidney transplant programs in recent decades. It continued to push boundaries when it entered the field of facial transplantation. In 2008, Maria Siemionow, MD, PhD, and head of Plastic Surgery Research at Cleveland Clinic, led a surgical team in a 22-hour procedure that marked the first near-total face transplant in the United States. The surgeons replaced nearly 80 percent of the face of a woman who suffered severe facial trauma, including all of her features except for her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip, and chin.
In May 2017, Cleveland Clinic performed a face transplant on the youngest face transplant patient in the world. A team led by Dr. Siemionow and Frank Papay, MD, Chairman of the Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute, and Brian Gastman, MD, who was the patient’s primary plastic surgeon, conducted the 31-hour procedure, tapping the expertise of doctors representing 15 specialties.
The landmark procedure marked the leading edge of global transplant innovation. The face transplant team used surgical rehearsal, 3-D printing and virtual reality as platforms for preoperative planning. These platforms improved the accuracy and aesthetic and functional outcomes, transforming the patient’s life as well as her appearance.
As part of our centennial celebration, we spoke with Dr. Siemionow as part of Health Amplified, a Cleveland Clinic podcast. Watch our video recording now