A surgical team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston plans to perform partial face transplants—a rare and controversial procedure—on disfigured patients, The Boston Globe reported yesterday.

The hospital’s announcement makes it the second in the United States to allow surgeons to perform the procedure. The other site, the Cleveland Clinic, plans on performing full face transplants.

Worldwide, only three partial face transplants are known to have been performed. The controversy exists in the debate over the morality of exposing patients to the risks of a transplant in a non-lifesaving procedure.

One of the risks is that transplant recipients must take powerful drugs to keep their immune systems from rejecting the donor tissue, which may increase the risks of infections and cancer.

To address this concern, Brigham surgeons plan to perform the transplants only on patients who are already taking immunosuppressant drugs, such as those who have had organ transplants.

Source: The Boston Globe; July 29