(AP) The nation's first near-total face transplant has been done on a woman at the Cleveland Clinic, the hospital announced Tuesday.
Reconstructive surgeon Dr. Maria Siemionow replaced nearly all of the woman's face - 80 percent - with that of a dead female donor in an operation a couple weeks ago.
The patient's name and age were not released. The hospital plans a news conference Wednesday and would not give details until then.
The world's first partial face transplant occurred in France three years ago on a woman who had been mauled by her dog. Two others have been announced since then - a Chinese farmer attacked by a bear and a European man disfigured by a genetic condition.
The nature of the injuries or disfigurement that prompted the Cleveland case are not yet known. Such transplants are controversial, because they are aimed at improving a patient's quality of life rather than saving it, and require recipients to take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their life.
"It is very important what kind of recipient they selected," and how great the need was, said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which plans to offer face transplants too.
"There are patients who can benefit tremendously from this," he said. "It's great that it happened. It is a major move forward. Hopefully it will open the door both to the public and to other centers" wanting to offer such transplants, Pomahac said.