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Mayo clinic face transplant surgery gives man a new start in life

Sandness before and after surgery

ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA – Expert surgeons and doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester helped give a Wyoming man a new start in life with a successful near-total face transplant.

Andrew Sandness is the patient who receiving the life-changing surgery. Sandness, now 32, was just 21 when a gunshot wound devastated his face, Mayo said. Now, he is hoping for a full recovery and is “doing well.”

“I am absolutely amazed at the outcome so far,” says Sandness. “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.”

In the three years leading up to Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant, dozens of medical specialists spent more than 50 Saturdays in a human anatomy lab refining their surgical techniques and developing their approach. The transplant team rehearsed the full operation more than 30 times, the world-renowned health agency said.

The surgery, which spanned more than 50 hours, occurred in the summer 2016 and involved restoring Sandness’ nose, upper and lower jaw, palate, teeth, cheeks, facial muscles, oral mucosa, some of the salivary glands and the skin of the face (from below the eyelids to the neck and from ear to ear). The surgical team used virtual surgical planning technology and 3-D printing to optimize the aesthetic and functional outcomes of the surgery. Sandness has been recovering in Rochester and likely will return home to eastern Wyoming this month.

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