Risky Surgery Gives Polish Man About Face on Life

Doctors in Poland performed a risky, ground-breaking face transplant on a 33-year-old man in order to save his life.

Doctors in Poland performed a risky, ground-breaking face transplant on a 33-year-old man in order to save his life.

A ground-breaking surgery has allowed a Polish man to do an about face on his life.

Patients usually have to wait several years before undergoing face transplant surgery, but after a work accident left a 33-year-old, identified only as Grzegorz, mauled and at risk for life-threatening infections, doctors needed to act fast.

The Polish man received a new face three weeks after a stone-cutting machine damaged his face so severely that it couldn’t be reattached. His jaw was crushed, and his condition was deteriorating so rapidly that doctors said they had no choice other than to give him a face transplant right away.

“Usually, the recipients have to wait between one and seven years,” said Dr. Adam Maciejewski, who headed the team of surgeons at the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, the only facility in Poland licensed to perform face transplants. “For obvious reasons, we had to act much faster, as we were saving this man’s life.”

Maciejewski said Grzegorz’s surgery was the first transplant undertaken to save a patient’s life. The operation took 27 hours and also included a bone transplant. Grzegorz needed reconstruction of his face, jaws, palate and the bottom of his eye sockets.

Thumbs-Up

He is still at risk for infection, but is expected to recover and live a normal life.

Although post-operation photographs show stitches from above his right eye, under his left eye and around the face to the neck, Grzegorz was able to give photographers a thumbs up six days after surgery.

Poland is becoming a medical leader in Central Europe. Medical tourists from Germany, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Canada are among the 500,000 patients that visit each year for treatments and procedures. Cost for procedures in Poland can be 70-80 percent less than those in Great Britain, making the country a favorite for plastic surgery among Europeans.

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