Facial transplant recipient Richard Lee Norris immediately after the operation (left), and seven months later (right).

Facial transplant recipient Richard Lee Norris immediately after the operation (left), and seven months later (right).

A while ago I reported about one of the most astonishing medical stories, when Richard Lee Norris, a terribly disfigured young male, received the most comprehensive face transplant in history. During the procedure, both jaws, teeth, facial soft tissue from the scalp to the neck and sensory muscles indispensable to facial expression were replaced. After seven months the results are staggering, and the patient is doing better as each day passes.

The  37-year-old Richard Lee Norris was severely mutilated following a gun accident in 1997, when he lost his lips, nose and was left with a limited movement of his mouth. In March of this year the patient received the most comprehensive facial transplant to date over the course of a tiresome 36 hours procedure. Here’s a photo of Norris before his surgery (warning! very graphic).

“For the past 15 years I lived as a recluse hiding behind a surgical mask and doing most of my shopping at night when less people were around,” Norris said, according to a news release from the University of Maryland Medical Center, where the procedure was performed in March. “I can now go out and not get the stares and have to hear comments that people would make.”

Currently, Norris can smile and show facial expressions, and also smell, taste and eat. The motor function on the right side of his face is about 80 percent of normal and motor function on the left side is about 40 percent, according to his doctors, but he’s currently continuing to show progress.

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Copyright 2012 ZME Science

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One comment

  1. 1

    Amazing story, and quite a scientific feat, too.

    I can only imagine the pain management he had to utilize, going through this procedure…actually, procedures. Anyone who’s ever sustained a facial injury of any consequence, knows just how painful they can be.

    This new-face recipient looks well. I’m happy for him.

    Finally, a story about surgery that actually has real meaning to it.

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