A teenage girl who was left horrifically disfigured in a fire has had a new face grown on her BREAST by doctors.
The move follows a similar operation in which another group of Chinese doctors manage to give a car accident victim a new nose by growing it first on his forehead.
In the latest operation 17-year-old Xu Jianmei woke up after the operation this week to find that she once again had a chin, eyelids and an ear.
But she said best of all she could smile properly for the first time in 12 years since the fire that left her horrifically disfigured when she was just five.
The parents had not been able to afford plastic surgery to improve her life in any way but that changed when doctors working on the pioneering new technology offered her the chance to have surgery for free.
It meant that the girl from the small Chinese fishing village received the face transplant using tissue from her chest in an operation that has now been carried out.
The transplant team in Fujian province built her new face using a blood vessel from her leg and a water-filled balloon to expand her skin. It then took several months to ‘grow’ the new face until it was large enough to cover her missing facial features.
Video footage after last week’s eight-hour surgery shows Ms Xu lying in a hospital bed, barely conscious and severely swollen, but with smooth flesh now replacing the ridged scars of her old face.
“With her new face she will be able to express herself in a more precise way. She will even be able to blush when her emotions change, but it will take a long time,” her surgeon, Jiang Chenhong, claimed.
“First, we took a piece of blood vessel fascia from her thigh and implanted it in her chest. Then we inserted a skin expander beneath the part of skin where the blood vessel fascia was planted, so that the part could expand and produce enough skin for her new face,” Jiang Chenghong added.
Chinese teams are said to have performed several similar transplant surgeries in recent months, including creating a new nose on a car accident survivor’s forehead, using a skin expander and cartilage from his ribs. That transplant was successfully completed in September.
China’s first donor face transplant recipient, farmer Li Guoxing, received his new face in 2006. That was less than a year after the world’s first successful face transplant recipient, Isabelle Dinoir, was presented to media in France.
Doctors believe that the wounds left by the surgery on Xu will heal over the next several weeks.