The US Department of Defense has been pouring millions of dollars into Brigham and The Cleveland Clinic—where the first US face transplant took place in 2008—to help troops so badly disfigured in combat that conventional surgery has been of little or no help.

“Every war brings something new to medicine,” said Maria Siemionow, MD, who headed the first face transplant team at The Cleveland Clinic, where the military has invested about $1.5 million in the procedure.

The military routes money to Brigham and Cleveland through the Biomedical Translational Initiative and Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, respectively. Both programs are aimed at helping troops injured in combat and include partnerships with dozens of public and private hospitals and medical institutions.

Although face transplantation remains highly experimental, Defense Department officials estimate that as many as 200 wounded troops could be eligible. Military doctors have begun scouring the rolls of wounded servicemembers to identify candidates because there is no comprehensive combat injury registry. The military expects to have one in place by next year, including a new classification for “penetrating face trauma,” Robert Hale, an Army colonel heading those efforts at the Army Institute of Surgical Research in Texas, says.

In April, the first potential military patient was selected—a candidate to have his entire combat-mangled face replaced.


[Source: Stars & Stripes]