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UCLA launches face transplant program

Los Angeles — The UCLA Health System has developed the UCLA Face Transplantation Program, the first surgical program of its kind in the western United States and one of only a handful in the nation.

As part of its program, UCLA is seeking patients to participate in a face transplant clinical trial and to be followed for five years after surgery. Approved participants will be placed on a waiting list until the center identifies a suitable match from a donor. Recipients must match the donor’s blood type, gender, ethnicity, skin tone, hair pattern and other criteria.

Eligibility criteria for the clinical trial include:

  • The patient’s facial disfigurement cannot be repaired by conventional surgery;
  • The disfigurement is not due to a birth defect;
  • The patient must be between ages 18 and 60;
  • The patient has no serious infections, including HIV or hepatitis B or C;
  • The patient is in otherwise good general health;
  • The patient must commit to extensive rehabilitation after surgery, including soft-tissue massage and speech, swallowing and facial-movement therapies;
  • The patient must agree to follow a drug schedule to prevent transplant rejection and attend all appointments at the transplant center.

To date, 19 patients worldwide have received partial or complete facial transplants; five have been performed in the United States.

“Our goal in creating this program is to return a sense of normalcy to our patients’ lives. We hope that restoring facial form and function will provide the opportunity for patients to lead productive lives that are not defined or hampered by facial appearance,” Reza Jarrahy, M.D., surgical co-director of the new program and assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a news release.

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