Wyoming man gets life-changing face transplant at Mayo Clinic

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A team of Mayo Clinic surgeons and doctors recently completed a near-total face transplant on a Wyoming man at the medical center’s Rochester, Minnesota campus. The transplant will be truly life-changing surgery for 32-year-old Andrew Sandness, who suffered a gunshot wound to the face at the age of 21.

The face transplant will improve Andrew’s ability to chew, swallow, speak, breathe and smell. He is doing well following the surgery, according to Mayo Clinic.

“I am absolutely amazed at the outcome so far,” Sandness said. “I am now able to chew and eat normal food, and the nerve sensation is slowly improving, too. My confidence has improved, and I’m feeling great ― and grateful. I am so thankful to my donor and the donor’s family, and to all of the people who have supported me throughout this process.”

Facial transplantation is the process of removing part or all of a donor’s face and attaching it to a patient who has suffered a severe facial injury or deformity. Attaching nerves and blood vessels from the donor’s face to the recipient patient’s face is the key to unlocking the potential for sensations and functions that are similar to an uninjured face.

The surgery took more than 50 hours to restore Andrew’s nose, upper and lower jaw, palate, teeth, cheeks, facial muscles, oral mucosa, some of the salivary glands and the skin of the face. The surgical team used advanced surgical planning technology and 3-D printing to give Andrew the best possible appearance and function with his new face.

“This is an extraordinary example of the teamwork, collaboration and compassion that we provide at Mayo Clinic, and I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” said Dr. Samir Mardini, who led the surgery. “Andy has been our patient for 10 years. He has worked so hard to prepare for this, and during his entire recovery period, he has been strong, gracious and determined. Andy is an amazing person and so well-deserving of this gift.”

Sandness has been recovering in Rochester and likely will return home to Wyoming this month.