Modern Medicine

First Full Face Transplant in U.S. Unveiled

A Texas construction worker disfigured in a power-line accident two years ago got a new face. More than 30 doctors, nurses, and staff at a Boston hospital performed the first full face transplant in the United States, grafting an entire new face onto Dallas Wiens, including a nose, lips, skin, and muscles and nerves that animate the skin. Wiens won’t resemble “either what he used to be or the donor,” said the surgeon. “The tissues are really molded on a new person.” Wiens had no insurance when he was injured, and Medicaid covered two dozen surgeries before his disability payments put him over the income limit. The new health-care law let him get coverage under his father’s plan, so he could afford the expensive drugs he’ll have to take his whole life in order to keep his body from rejecting the new tissue. The surgery itself was paid for by the Defense Department, which gave the hospital a grant for transplant research.