Pentagon Seeks Volunteers for Face Transplant Surgeries

Face TransplantThe U.S. military is looking for candidates to receive face transplants.

Over the past decade face transplant surgeries have been done in civilian hospitals, but it has been the U.S. Defense Department, with its obvious interest in such reconstructive surgery, that has been picking up much of the tab.

As part of this work, service members, inactive troops and retirees with facial wounds or injuries serious enough that they might consider face transplant surgery are invited to contact Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for an evaluation.

Since the first face transplant was performed in France nearly a decade ago, 24 such surgeries have been done in the United States, according to the U.S> military’s website, Armed With Science.

“The military has absolutely played a critical role,” Dr. Bohdan Pomahac of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said in the Pentagon release. “There are no other [funding] sources available for clinical research on face transplant surgery other than them.”

Pomahac led medical teams on five face transplant surgeries at Brigham and Women’s – the first covered by the hospital and the others – at about $250,000 each – paid for out of a $3.4 million grant from the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

Other surgeries have been done at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. It was at the Cleveland Clinic in 2008 where the largest and most complicated face transplant was performed, replacing 80 percent of a woman’s face in a procedure that took 22 hours, the article states. That surgery, also, was covered by an AFIRM grant.

The Pentagon continues to provide funding to the civilian hospitals for additional surgeries and research.

Pomahac told  Armed With Science that the Defense Department is now trying to find ways to further reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the need for immunosuppression medications. These are currently required for patients to prevent their system from rejecting the transplanted tissue.

“We are not there yet, but we are making strides in this direction,” he said.

Jim Maki (left), a face plant walks with Cheryl DeLuca, Chief of the Natick Contracting Division, after a presentation at Natick Soldier Systems Center.

Jim Maki (left), a face plant walks with Cheryl DeLuca, Chief of the Natick Contracting Division, after a presentation at Natick Soldier Systems Center.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • anthony bauwens

    I dearlly hope that a victim of fire or wich ever gets helpedand for nothing..

    • blight_

      Edit: Re Jim Maki

      Plenty of civilian hospitals already moving into the face transplant space, or giving it some serious thought. There’s a threshold of necessity that is worth taking into consideration. Severe burn victims and disfigurements first and for injuries sustained in the service. Anything less is bound to insanely expensive.

      That said, VA still needs to put more resources into psychological support, the suicide rate is pretty scary, and not all of the suicides are people who have deployed overseas.

  • hibeam

    This is why we gotta start using drones and robots more. People who talk about the expense of drones and robots don’t figure in the expense of trying to rebuild the people who come back from the battlefield.

    • That only works so far but I do agree, we need to use more airpower before we get the guys on the ground in contact with the bad guys.

    • oblatt22

      Hiding our soldiers behind our women and children just makes them more vulnerable.

  • Stephen Russell

    Get volunteers from EU, & vets from Korean, Vietnam wars alone.
    & make sure process is smooth for patient, kin & friends alone
    apply to ALL VA centers.
    Get contractors hurt in accidents for treatment too.

    • hibeam

      Get Nancy Pelosi.

  • herkey

    obama and mooshe first in line!

  • Tiger

    Nick Cage & Travolta movie stuff for real? Wow…….. Holy Popular Science Batman!

    Not quite a cure for AIDS, but still quite a medical leap. 150 years ago, Civil war surgeons could not even dream of such a thing.