Turkish surgeons performs country’s first-ever face transplant

Mon 23 Jan 2012 02:16 GMT | 06:16 Local Time

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Turkish hospital performs triple limb and face transplant.

A hospital in Antalya province has performed the world's first triple limb transplant and Turkey's first face transplant after the family of a man who had been declared brain dead donated all of his organs.

After Ahmet Kaya, who was crushed under a train two weeks ago, was declared officially brain dead, his family made the decision to donate his organs. Teams from Akdeniz University's Faculty of Medicine took two arms, one leg and the face of the donor to Antalya to perform transplantation operations on two patients. Atilla Kavdır, a 34-year-old man, lost his arms and right leg when he was 11 years old after striking a power line with an iron rod in order to scare away pigeons outside his home. Ugur Acar, 19 years old, suffered serious burns to his face during a house fire that occurred when he was a baby.

The two operations commenced at 3:15 a.m. on Saturday. Two separate teams comprising 25 doctors and nurses contributed to the surgery. Acar's face transplant finished at 12:30 p.m., after nine hours of surgery, while the triple limb transplant lasted for about 12 hours. As Turkey's first face transplant and the world's first triple limb transplant, both operations mark important medical milestones.

Describing how they are honored to be part of the team that performed the landmark surgery, Dr. Omer Ozkan, a professor from the Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery Department of Antalya University's Faculty of Medicine, told a press conference following the operations that although these are the first such operations, he hopes this will not be the last groundbreaking surgery to take place in Turkey.

Ozkan, who led the 25-member team, said both patients were being cared for in the intensive care unit and were "doing well."

"We have a critical 10 to 15-day period ahead of us for both operations, but if we pull through this period, we will make history. We will continue to keep the patients under anesthetic in order to prevent any possible complications," Ozkan said.

Ozkan also added that this was the first time a family had donated both the face and organs of a recently deceased individual. Aside from the success of the team carrying out the operation, the role of Kaya's family is also noteworthy.

"Today, we have put our signature on a global medical success," Dr. Israfil Kurtcephe, the university hospital's rector, told reporters at the press conference. Describing how they were still feeling the excitement of performing the unprecedented surgery in their university hospital, Kurtcephe said the donor, Kaya, has also gone down in history.

"For the first time in medical history a hospital has transplanted two arms and a leg from one patient. We are enjoying the fame of being at the forefront of medicine in Turkey and the world," Kurtcephe noted.

The world's first double arm transplant was undertaken in Germany in 2008, while the first double leg transplant took place in Spain in July 2011.

Meanwhile, the hospital reported that Kavdır's body has rejected the transplanted leg. He underwent further surgery at 6 a.m. on Sunday, following which the doctors requested that Kavdır's relatives donate blood as soon as possible.

After the second surgery for Kavdır, Ozkan told reporters in a press conference on Sunday afternoon that they had to amputate the transplanted leg in the surgery because they could not risk the life of Kavdır. Özkan said although a problem occurred with the transplanted leg of Kavdır, there have been no problem with the transplanted arms of Kavdır and transplanted face of Acar up to know.

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