Boston, Massachusetts (PressExposure) January 13, 2010 -- Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) has been awarded a $3.4 million contract by the US Department of Defense (DoD) to fund face transplants for US military veterans who have severe facial deformities resulting from war injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The contract is one of the first two awards provided through a new DoD initiative to advance innovative medical procedures into mainstream practice; it will fund six to eight procedures at BWH in the next 18 months, potentially doubling the number of face transplants performed worldwide since the first in 2005.
The award will also allow eligible civilians to have the procedure. Among additional requirements, eligible recipients must be missing at least 25 percent of their face and be unable to rely on the help of standard reconstructive surgery. It is unsure how many veterans will be eligible for a face transplant, but military officials estimate as many as 200.
The DoD requires the hospital to measure results, including assessing whether the transplants improve patients' lives and enable them to return to work. In April 2009, Bohdan Pomahac, MD, plastic surgeon and director of the Burn Center at BWH, and a team of 35, performed the first face transplant at BWH, which was the second in the nation and seventh in the world.
Today, BWH is recognized as one of the world's leaders in transplantation. In 1954, a BWH team led by Dr. Joseph Murray performed the first successful human organ donor transplant, a kidney, from one brother to another. In recognition of this achievement, Dr. Murray received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1990. BWH also performed the first triple organ transplant and the first quintuple lung transplant in the United States in 1995 and 2004 respectively.
The first heart transplant in New England was performed at BWH in 1984; two decades later, the 500th transplant was successfully performed at the hospital. The first heart-lung transplant in Massachusetts was done at BWH in 1992.
In 2006, BWH performed for the first time in its history 100 kidney transplants in one year and in 2008, more than 30 lung transplants were performed, putting BWH among the top hospitals in the country for volume. Since 1984, BWH has performed more than 560 heart transplants.
In 2009, a BWH surgical team, led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, performed the first partial face transplants in New England and the second in the U.S. The team, comprised of more than three dozen clinicians, worked for 17 hours replacing the mid-face area of the patient, which included the nasal structure, the nose, hard palette, upper lip, facial skin, muscles of facial animation and the nerves that power them and provide sensation.
Additional coverage: Boston Globe, WBZ-TV