Feature Archive

Face Transplants Face Reality

Experts are wary as some surgeons seek to attempt a face transplant -- a procedure that probably isn't what you think it is.

By Daniel DeNoon
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

Face transplants soon will be a reality. But they aren't what you think they are.

In the movies, a character goes to the doctor and emerges the next day with someone else's face. This leads to complications. Real-life face transplants won't be anything like this. And the real-life risks may be far more serious, says Steven J. Pearlman, MD, president-elect of the American Academy of Facial, Plastic, and Reconstructive Surgery.

"This is nothing at all like the illusion -- or delusion -- of swapping a face with someone else's," Pearlman tells WebMD. "It will never be a cosmetic procedure. The operation itself is a potentially fatal procedure because of the risk of rejection, life-long immune suppression, and the potential for life-threatening infections even if there is no graft rejection."

Face Transplant: The Reality

Face transplants would work much like other organ transplants. The family of a deceased person would donate that person's face to a needy patient. But after the transplant, the recipient would not look like the donor.


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