Face Off

The first American face-transplant recipient greets the world

Connie Culp

The first American recipient of a face transplant shows off the results. The appearance is expected to normalize as the swelling goes down.srqpix (CC licensed)

Last March, a French surgical team proved that face transplants weren't just for Nic Cage and John Travolta. Then, in December, an American team successfully performed the first face transplant on this side of the Atlantic. And yesterday, we got our first look at the results.

The Associated Press does a good job of covering the story of Connie Culp, who, after getting shot in the face by her husband, would become the recipient of the new face.

Last month, PopSci spoke with Jeffrey Matthews, chairman of surgery at the University of Chicago, who listed this type of procedure as one of the most dramatic advances in medical technology in the last quarter of a century. Needless to say, the results back up Dr. Matthews' claim.

The surgery itself consists of doctors attaching the small muscles, nerves, and veins between the patient and the donor face. Additionally, special infusions of marrow cells and immune-system suppressing drugs help prevent the recipient from rejecting the transplant. A diagram of the surgery can be found in the New England Journal of Medicine.