Patient is thriving one year after extraordinary surgery
Last December, a multi-disciplinary team of doctors and surgeons at Cleveland Clinic performed the first near-total face transplant in the United States. A year later, the patient – Connie Culp of Unionport, Ohio – can smell, taste and breathe normally. She had lost those abilities after a shotgun blast destroyed the middle part of her face in 2004.
In a 22-hour procedure, surgeons transplanted 80 percent of Ms. Culp’s face. It was the largest and most complex face transplant in the world, integrating different functional components such as nose and lower eyelids, as well as different tissue types, including skin, muscles, bony structures, arteries, veins and nerves.
“This work demonstrates the Cleveland Clinic’s commitment to improving the lives of patients through innovation,” says Delos M. Cosgrove, MD, President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic. “By advancing scientific research in microsurgery and transplantation, Cleveland Clinic is setting new standards of care. I’m extremely proud of the team who worked tirelessly to make a difference in this patient’s life.”
The transplant team was led by Maria Siemionow, MD, PhD, Director of Plastic Surgery Research and Head of Microsurgery Training. A highly regarded scientist, Dr. Siemionow has dedicated her professional life to researching and developing the methods doctors could use to substantially help patients with severe facial disfiguration.
“As a physician, one of the most rewarding things we can do is to restore the quality of life to a patient,” says Dr. Siemionow. “Patients with facial disfigurement have very difficult challenges in society. We hope that one day we may be able to help the tens of thousands of patients who are quietly suffering.”
Frank A. Papay, MD, Chairman of the Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, says the surgery was made possible because of the multi-disciplinary team involved. “This work started with a medical team that had an extraordinary vision for what could be possible for patients who have suffered severe trauma to their faces. Cleveland Clinic’s team has worked together to take that vision and make it a reality,” Papay says. “In the end, we’re all here for our patients to make their lives better.”
Cleveland Clinic Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute led the face transplant surgery, partnering with the Cleveland Clinic Head & Neck Institute. Staff members from psychology/psychiatry, bioethics, social work, anesthesia, transplant, nursing, infectious disease, dentistry, ophthalmology, pharmacy, environmental services and security were also significantly involved.
In addition to Dr. Siemionow and Dr. Papay, the team included: Daniel S. Alam, MD, Facial Plastic Surgeon; Risal Djohan, MD, Plastic Surgeon; Steven L. Bernard, MD, Plastic Surgeon; Mark Hendrickson, MD, Head of Hand Surgery; Robert F. Lohman, MD, Plastic Surgeon; John J. Fung, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Department of General Surgery and Director of the Transplant Center; Bijan Eghtesad, MD, Staff Surgeon in the Departments of General Surgery and Transplantation; and Chad Gordon, DO, Fellow in the Department of Plastic Surgery.
To make a gift supporting the Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, the Head & Neck Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit iSupport, our secure online giving site, or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.
- Face transplant facts
- Face transplant video
- Face transplant Q&A
- Delos M. Cosgrove, MD
- Maria Siemionow, MD, PhD
- Frank A. Papay, MD
- Daniel S. Alam, MD
- Risal Djohan, MD
- Steven L. Bernard, MD
- Mark Hendrickson, MD
- John J. Fung, MD, PhD
- Bijan Eghtesad, MD
- Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute
- Head & Neck Institute