Successful face transplant is "most extensive to date"


March 27, 2012

Remarkable transformation - before and after shots of the face transplant recipient (Photo: University of Maryland Medical Center)

Remarkable transformation - before and after shots of the face transplant recipient (Photo: University of Maryland Medical Center)

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A gun accident fifteen years ago left Richard Lee Norris without his lips, nose, and with limited movement of his mouth. Now after a marathon 36-hour surgical procedure described as "the most extensive full face transplant completed to date," a team led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez at the University of Maryland has restored Mr. Norris' quality of life.

The procedure, which goes by the technical name of "vascularized composite allograft" (VCA), took place at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center on March 19-20 and involved over 150 nurses and professional staff.

CT scan before and after surgery (Image: University of Maryland Medical Center)

"We utilized innovative surgical practices and computerized techniques to precisely transplant the mid-face, maxilla and mandible including teeth, and a portion of the tongue," said Dr. Rodriquez. "In addition, the transplant included all facial soft tissue from the scalp to the neck, including the underlying muscles to enable facial expression, and sensory and motor nerves to restore feeling and function. Our goal is to restore function as well as have aesthetically pleasing results."

The achievement is the result of 10 years of research and the generosity of a anonymous donor who also saved five other lives through organ transplants - four of which also took place at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center


Ughhh this whole ghastly thing about being alive and then dead....

And sharing the body parts.

Not saying it's wrong - I just don't like it.

Mr Stiffy

I wonder what the people who knew the donor feel about him "coming alive again"? I imagine it would be quite weird to see their relative alive and well again.

Tony Samson

Dang. This is what's awesome about modern medicine.


I would want to see a video of the man a few months or a year down the line, to see not only how he's coping with someone else's face, but also to see how his control of the muscular system of the transplant functions. Amazing advances in technology!


The donor is not too anonymous anymore, huh?

Roger Richards

I think this is a wonderful, generous gift to a man who so desperately needed it. I am sure the recipient is not only grateful, but determined to give this gift a the best life he can.

Diana Hockley

The main factor in the shape of a face is the underlying bone structure, not the soft tissue put on top of it. The face is his - any resemblance to the donor would be coincidental. As for "coming alive again", unless you regard the dead man as having had an "everything but his face" transplant, I don't see why you'd look at it that way. Pretty amazing stuff though!

Marcus Carr

Marcus, in this case there is some of the face that will stay the same. look at the bone CT Scans above. they are AFTER to the left and BEFORE to the right.

"...mid-face, maxilla and mandible including teeth, and a portion of the tongue..."

This means that his eyebrows are original, but he has a new Jaw, Teeth, and the whole area behind his upper mouth, nose, cheekbones, and lower eye-socket areas.

So imagine someone you know showing up with a different forehead and hair, but it's actually this guy.

This is a simply amazing procedure, I'm sure the most immediate benefit will be to Mr. Norris, but this bodes well for a 2050 face-lift using cloned tissues as well as other more complex repair jobs on the human body.

Rich Brumpton

I would rather live with the disfigurement than have my immune system suppressed but I suppose if I already had AIDS.


Rich, the point is that it is not very likely the people who knew the donor will pass the recipient on the street and know it's him. These translplants basically cause a new, hybridized result, rather than one or the other of the originals.

C. Walker Walker

Many drugs will be involved in reducing rejection and these lower immunity, how will they cope with that?

Dawar Saify
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