China ready for face transplant operations

NANJING: Operations similar to the world's first partial face transplant in France last month could be set for China.

After experts from a military hospital in the city announced earlier this week that they have the ability to perform such surgery, the hospital has been inundated with telephone inquiries, according to Chen Fang, a nurse with the General Hospital of Nanjing Military Commands in east China's Jiangsu Province.

"We've been preparing for such operations ever since 2003," Hong Zhijian, director of the plastic surgery section of the hospital told China Daily yesterday.

"If there is a suitable patient at the moment, we can graft a new face for him or her," he said.

Hong is the leader of a specialist team studying facial transplant in the hospital.

Hong and his colleagues have been practising anatomization from 2003, and now they are capable of dissecting a face, including subcutaneous fat, arteries, veins and nerves, from a dead body.

"Although many people want to have facial transplants, not all of them are suitable to have the operation," explained Hong. "That is why we are still looking for the first patient."

The ability of patients to be able to adapt psychologically to their new face would also need to be considered.

Apart from suitable patients, surgeons need to find facial transplants from donors that can be compatible enough.

"When all of the conditions are right, we can carry out facial transplants at once," Hong said confidently. "While we already have five or six candidates who might be the first to have such a kind of operation, we still need time to study their conditions."

He added that the biggest risk of such operations is the rejection by the receiver's body immune system, which perceives tissue grafted from a donor as alien.

Source: China Daily 12/09/2005 page3

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