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China's 1st Face Transplant

Doctors in northwest China have performed the country's first face transplant, and the second such operation in the world.


President of the Xijing Hospital, in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, Zhang Yingzhi announced the news of the transplant on Friday.


"The surgery is even more complex than the first face transplant in France in Nov. last year," said Han Yan, deputy director with the hospital's plastic surgery department.


The patient, Li Guoxing, 30, had two thirds of his face -- mostly on the right side -- replaced in an operation that lasted 14 hours and ended on Friday morning.


Surgeons in France carried out the world's first such operation on a 38-year-old Isabelle Dinoire whose lips and nose were ripped off by a dog.


Li Guoxing was given a new cheek, upper lip, nose, and an eyebrow from a single donor.


Li's face, nevertheless, had been marred when he was assaulted by a bear in 2004. He has since lived as a recluse because of his horrific disfigurement.


The hospital performed the surgery free of charge after learning of his plight and his poverty.


Li was recovering satisfactorily, said Guo Shuzhong, director of the plastic surgery department, who performed the transplant.


However, it would take six months for feeling to be established in his new face, Guo said.


He also needed to overcome psychological and ethical problems. "His wife may take a long time to adjust to his new face," he said.


Guo said that the donor was male and had been declared brain-dead before the operation, but his next of kin had requested that no further information be published.


The Xijing Hospital successfully performed a facial skin transplant operation on a rabbit in December, transplanting half the skin tissue from a New Zealand rabbit on to a local animal.


A fortnight later, the rabbit was in good condition with the eye on the transplanted side blinking naturally, the hospital said.


About one million people in China suffer from severe facial disfigurements each year with at least five percent suffering from inoperable conditions.


(Xinhua News Agency April 15, 2006)






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