Disfigured girl receives face transplant using skin grown on her chest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 2:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 2:57pm

A girl from Fujian who was seriously disfigured by fire when young has successfully received a face transplant in an advanced technique developed in the southeastern coastal province.

Xu Jianmei suffered 95-per-cent burns on her face and hands in a fire when she was just five years old.

But now the 17-year-old has a new face following the operation an operation using skin grown on her breast carried out on October 15th in the provincial capital Fuzhou.

Doctors on Tuesday concluded, after two weeks of close observation, the operation was “very successful” and Xu’s new face appears to be performing normally.

They would carry out additional minor surgery in future which would allow Xu to better communicate through her facial expressions, they said.

Xu’s family comes from an impoverished fishing village and for years could not afford her medical treatment. Recently, however, a hospital in Xiamen offered to carry out the pioneering transplant at no cost.

Preparation had been ongoing since November last year when the medical team implanted a water-filled balloon under Xu’s chest skin. The balloon slowly expanded the growing skin so it could be transplanted onto her face, the Southeast Express reported.

China is one of few countries in the world to have successfully carried out a facial transplant since French doctors carried out the world’s first in 2005, but the surgery remains a difficult and risky.

In China’s first such transplant the medical technique benefitted farmer Li Guoxing in 2006 after he was mauled in a bear attack. Li died two years later, however, from a suspected immune system reaction that saw his body rejecting the new skin.

Last month Fujian surgeons grew a new nose onto the skin of a man’s forehead in advance of a transplant, after the patient damaged his own in a traffic accident.