Man gets face transplant soon after accident

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WARSAW, Poland -- A 33-year-old Polish man received a face transplant just three weeks after being disfigured in a workplace accident, in what his doctors said yesterday is the fastest time frame to date for such an operation. It was Poland's first face transplant.

Face transplants are extraordinarily complicated and relatively rare procedures that usually require months or years of preparation. But medical officials said the patient's condition was deteriorating so rapidly that a transplant was seen as the only option. The patient is being watched for potential infections.

The patient worked at a stonemason's workshop near Wroclaw where on April 23 a machine used to cut stone tore off most of his face and crushed his upper jaw. The man, identified only as Grzegorz, received intensive treatment at a hospital in Wroclaw, but an attempt to reattach his face failed, leaving an area near the brain exposed to infections, doctors said. So he was taken to the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, which has experience in facial reconstruction for patients disfigured by cancer.

Doctors there said the 27-hour face and bone transplant was performed May 15, soon after a donor was found.

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The surgery reconstructed the area around the eyes, the nose, jaws and palate and other parts of the man's face.

The head of the project team, Dr. Adam Maciejewski, said, "We assume the surgery will allow the patient to return to normal life. He will be able to breathe, to eat, to see." But another doctor said it will be months before they know. -- AP

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