Face transplants, reconstructive surgery, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Caught some snippets from “Mission Impossible-III” on TV the other day and was impressed not by all of Tom Cruise’s over-the-top stunts, but by two rubberized face mask stunts.

Face transplant of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s face? 

At one point Cruise pulls on a face-and-neck hood which is a stunning facimile of Philip Seymour Hoffman who brilliantly plays the villain, Davian, in the movie. In the scene, Cruise as Hoffman approaches Hoffman from behind and you see both of them in the mirror at the same time.


The same face mask gimmick is used when villain Davian shoots Cruise’s girlfriend, Michelle Monegan, in front of Cruise, only to have an unknown woman pull off a face-and-neck hood of Monegan later and admit that the gun fired blanks.  



Reconstructive surgery moves face masks from stunts to reality.

A news dispatch last week declared an even more impressive face mask maneuver: another face was transplanted in Cleveland by a large surgical team.  It’s beginning to look like we can reliably give people with severely deformed faces new lives through partially or totally different faces from donors.

Here’s the news story in its entirety.

By Angela Townsend, The Plain Dealer   on November 18, 2014 at 10:21 AM, 

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday used Twitter to announce some big news – that they successfully transplanted 90 percent of a patient’s face.

Included in the Tweet, which posted at 9 a.m. ET, is the linkclevelandclinic.org/lp/face/ that provides more background information on the 24.5-hour surgery, which took place in late September. The link includes an explanatory video, profiles of the surgical team, and information on how to become an organ donor

It’s the second near-total face transplant for the Clinic, where on Dec. 9, 2008 a team of surgeons performed the first such surgery in the United States.

The first patient was Connie Culp.

And this latest surgery is the first time that a face transplant recipient’s eyesight has been preserved.

The details: The patient, a middle-aged man, came to the Clinic after several surgeries at other hospitals. The man, whom Clinic officials would only say lives in the “region,” was severely disfigured following a car accident.

Dr. Papay  

“He had lost one eye, and the one remaining eye had impending visual loss,” said Dr. Francis Papay, chairman of the Dermatology and Plastic Surgeon Institute at the Clinic. Papay led the surgical team with Dr. Maria Siemionow, former director of the Clinic’s Department of Plastic Surgery Research. Siemionow joined the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine this year.

The team included specialists from anesthesia, bioethics, dentistry, immunology, ophthalmology, pharmacy, psychiatry and transplant.

The surgery included transplantation of about two-thirds of the scalp, the forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw, upper teeth, facial nerves, salivary glands, facial muscles, and skin, effectively replacing about 90 percent of the patient’s face.

The patient became a candidate for a face transplant after multiple attempts at facial reconstruction, including eight surgeries at the Clinic.

“We decided to put him on the list as a potential face transplant,” Papay said. “He was on the list for three or four months.”

In late September, once a donor was identified, the reconstructive surgery began.

“He’s doing great,” Papay told The Plain Dealer on Tuesday. “I just left him 10 minutes ago. He’s undergoing physical therapy, he’s walking, eating, speaking wonderfully.”

The patient is breathing without a tracheostomy; doctors are closely monitoring him for signs of tissue rejection and are adjusting his immune suppression; as with other organ transplant recipients, he will remain on immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of his life.

The patient still has vision in his left eye, but the eye will need to be repositioned later in order to provide better visual acuity, Papay said.

Papay said the patient could be released from the hospital within a month.

“He wants to go home,” he said.

The Clinic is not releasing any other information about the patient, the donor or their families. But the Clinic did release a statement from the patient:

“I am grateful beyond words to the donor and his family for their amazing gift. I thank the Lord for the strength he’s given all of us to carry us through this, because we couldn’t do this on our own. I would like to thank the Cleveland Clinic – all the surgeons and staff who helped me, so many talented hands helping me in so many ways.”

Go here for a follow up story by reporter Townsend.

Next time, I’ll post an update on the outcome of facial transplants in the U.S. and some of the social psychological as well as biological and ethical issues.


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