Face transplantation is a recent development in reconstructive surgery for patients who have lost some or all of their face from injury or disease. The first full face transplantation in the United States was carried out at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in 2011. Hospital specialists subsequently performed full face transplantations on three additional patients.
As part of the procedure, surgeons connect the patient's major arteries and veins to those from a donor face, or facial allograft, to ensure healthy circulation in the transplanted tissue. Because the technology is new, not much is known about the vascular changes that help blood penetrate, or perfuse, into the transplanted tissue. The development of new blood vessel networks in transplanted tissue is critical to the success of face transplant surgery.