Doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have performed the nation's first full face transplant.
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac led a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and other staff members during a 15-hour operation to give a 25-year-old patient from Fort Worth, Texas, a new face.
The operation, which took place last week, replaced the entire facial area of Dallas Wiens, including the nose, lips, facial skin, muscles of facial animation and the nerves that power them and provide sensation.
In November 2008, Wiens was working on a cherry picker when his head touched a high-voltage power line. It sent so much electricity through his body that he suffered fourth-degree burns over his entire face.
In an Associated Press story and a YouTube video last fall, Wiens spoke poignantly about why he wanted a transplant and how he wanted to smile again and feel kisses from his 3-year-old daughter. Face transplants give horribly disfigured people hope of a new option "rather than looking in the mirror and hating what they see," he said.
Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women's, called the procedure "a new milestone in ... transplant surgery."
This was the second face transplant the Boston hospital has performed; the previous one was in April 2009 — the partial replacement of the face of a man who suffered traumatic facial injuries from a freak accident.
The world's first face transplant, also a partial, was done in France in 2005 on a woman mauled by her dog. Doctors in Spain performed the first full face transplant last March for a farmer who was unable to breathe or eat on his own after accidentally shooting himself in the face.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.