Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a world leader in promoting and performing reconstructive transplantation – innovative surgery that can rejuvenate the lives of patients whose faces have been severely deformed or whose limbs have been lost. Having performed New England’s first partial face transplant, the country’s first three full face transplants, and New England's first double hand transplant, we continue to evaluate other candidates for these life-giving procedures. We also intend to apply the principles of reconstructive transplantation to other parts of the body.
We describe reconstructive transplantation as restorative surgery because it has the potential to dramatically restore a patient’s appearance and their physical and mental health. By using human donor tissue, we are able to not only create a natural outward appearance, but also restore the anatomy and function of missing or deformed body parts.
Functionally, face transplant surgery has demonstrated the ability to immediately restore a patient’s ability to breathe through the nose and speak intelligibly. With time, the ability to smile and show other emotions also typically returns. And the ability to restore a near-normal facial appearance can lead to tremendous psychological benefits, gradually rebuilding confidence, elevating mood, and encouraging reintegration into society.
Hand transplant surgery can provide a patient with new hands that, after extensive rehabilitation, allow them to perform daily activities. As with face transplant surgery, restoring a near-normal aesthetic appearance of the hand(s) can lead to tremendous psychological benefits, including elevated confidence and mood.
Leg transplantation in suitable patients can provide new legs that may re-establish mobility and sensation, thereby allowing the patient to return to work, enjoy an improved quality of life, and recover independence in daily activities. As in hand transplant surgery, the near-normal appearance of the transplanted legs may also provide additional psychological benefits.