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Patients who lose massive amounts of complex tissue due to traumatic injury or degenerative disease face an overwhelming loss of physical and social function. While reconstructive transplantation may offer the most promising solution to these patients, insurance companies are reluctant to cover new and innovative procedures. In addition, some insurance companies do not fully cover prescriptions for anti-rejection drugs, which can cost up to $20,000 annually. These patients rely on the support of generous donors who are committed to improving their lives.

Maria Siemionow, MD, PhD, Director of Plastic Surgery Research and Head of Microsurgery Training, and her team of researchers are conducting transplantation related studies and are also testing new protocols to increase tolerance of transplanted organs.

"As soon as anti-rejection medications become available, it will open up a new era in reconstructive surgery for physicians as well as for society," Dr. Siemionow says. "However, the remaining issues will not be solved tomorrow. It will require years of testing in clinical trials.”

If her team can prove these new drugs work, the medical community will have less reason to question unconventional transplants.

"The only obstacle is financial support. Research for anti-rejection drugs would forever change the view of transplant surgery for severe cases," Dr. Siemionow says.

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Make a gift to the Center for Reconstructive Transplantation, Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic. For more information, please contact Maureen Horton, Director of Development, Institutional Relations & Development, 216.444.7172,