Neuromuscular pathways can be restored, reveals ASPS study

NEW ORLEANS – After face transplantation, regaining the ability to chew food, smile or even feel a gentle breeze across the face is possible within a year after surgery, reveals a study being presented at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual conference, Plastic Surgery The Meeting, October 26 - 30, in New Orleans. In fact, motor recovery was significant and improvements in speech and social interactions were also observed, the study reports.

“What we found is that a face transplant is more than a way to create a more pleasing appearance because the new face can be functional as well,” said Bohdan Pomahac, MD, ASPS Member Surgeon and study lead author. “Integration and functionality of the transplanted face depends on the recovery of neuromuscular pathways and sensory nerves.”

The study measured the return of sensory and motor functioning in four, full or partial, face transplant recipients. All transplantations were performed 2009-2011. The patients’ ability to feel objects touching the surface of their skin and their ability to perform simple motor tasks at early and late postoperative periods were assessed. Significant strides were made in the year after transplantation. Initially, patients could not breathe through their new mouth or nose and required a breathing tube. They were unable to chew or speak. However, by 12 months many patients could breathe, eat and talk quite easily. They also regained the ability of facial expression, recovered certain aspects of socialization, and were able to smell again. Though, sensory recovery and motor functioning were largely dependent on whether major nerves were able to be reconnected to those in the transplanted face, the study notes.

“Due to damage related to the patients’ original traumas, connecting nerves in some areas was not possible,” said Dr. Pomahac. “Sensory recovery was not observed or lagged behind in areas where sensory nerves could not be connected to the transplant.”   

The study, "Sensory and Motor Functional Outcomes of Four Patients 1 and 3 Years After Face Transplantation,” is being presented in electronic format, October 27-29, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Reporters can register to attend Plastic Surgery The Meetingor arrange interviews by contacting ASPS Public Relations at (847) 228-9900, media@plasticsurgery.org or in New Orleans, October 26-30, at (504) 670-4242.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. 

Contact ASPS

Media Relations
(847) 228-9900
media@plasticsurgery.org