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Blood Vessels Reorganize Themselves Post Face Transplantation Surgery

Update Date: Dec 04, 2013 12:14 PM EST

Blood vessels that reside in the areas which have received face transplant can recognize themselves, a new study has found.

Patients who have a lost a part or entire of their face from surgery, face transplantation is proving extremely beneficial for them. Face transplantation is the recent development in reconstructive surgery. Two years ago, in 2011, the first full face transplantation in United States was carried out.

“All three patients included in this study at Brigham and Women’s maintain excellent perfusion, or blood flow, the key element of viability of the facial tissues and the restoration of form and function to those individuals who otherwise had no face,” said study co-author Frank J. Rybicki, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA, FACR, director of the hospital’s Applied Imaging Science Laboratory in a press release. “We assumed that the arterial blood supply and venous blood return was simply from the connections of the arteries and the veins at the time of the surgery.”

In face transplantation, patient’s major arteries and veins are connected with the donor face. The process is done to ensure the healthy circulation in the transplanted tissue.

Researchers also used a 320-detector row dynamic computed tomography angiography (CTA) to study the facial allografts on few patients one year later of successful transplantation. Through CTA technology, imaging over 16 centimeters of coverage can be done.

“The key finding of this study is that, after full face transplantation, there is a consistent, extensive vascular reorganization that works in concert with the larger vessels that are connected at the time of surgery,” said Kanako K. Kumamaru, M.D., Ph.D., research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Applied Imaging Science Laboratory in a press release.

“We have found that since the vessels more commonly associated with the back of the head are critical to maintain the perfusion via vascular reorganization, it is essential to visualize these vessels and determine that they are normal pre-operatively,” Dr. Kumamaru added. “Patients under consideration for face transplantation have universally had some catastrophic defect or injury.”

The study was presented in the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

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