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Surgeons: Transplant well worth its cost

Article-Surgeons: Transplant well worth its cost

Cleveland — The first U.S. face transplant cost about the same as the 23 separate conventional surgeries the patient had undergone previously — and according to the transplant surgeons was well worth it, MedPage Today reports.

The near-total face transplant performed at the Cleveland Clinic in late 2008 for a woman injured by a shotgun blast cost $349,959 compared with $353,480 for the 23 separate reconstructions she had already undergone. And according to Maria Siemionow, M.D., who led the transplant team, the results of the previous surgeries left much to be desired.

In an online American Journal of Transplantation article, Dr. Siemionow and colleagues report that Connie Culp, then 46, had lost her nose and palate in the injury and was unable to breathe, smell, taste or eat normally. Her disfigurement was such that she would not go out in public even after the reconstructive surgeries.

The transplant replaced 80 percent of her face, including cheeks, lower eyelids, nose and upper lip, as well as cheek and maxillary bone and some upper teeth.

"Given the face’s ... role in societal acceptance, it is impossible to truly quantify the value of this procedure using monetary means, as it has immensely improved our patient’s overall quality of life, thus leading to significant reductions in both psychological and physiological anguish,” the doctors wrote.

“Although the cost of facial transplantation is considerable, the alleviation of psychological and physiological suffering, exceptional functional recovery, and fulfillment of long-lasting hope for social reintegration may be priceless.”

Dr. Siemionow’s group has called for consideration of face transplantation as first-line treatment for severe facial trauma, MedPage Today reports.

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