Background: Since 2005, seven facial composite tissue allotransplantations have been performed in five different centers in three countries. Four teams have reported their outcomes in separate publications. The authors sought to review the first four global experiences and compare several factors. This review facilitates discussion of indications and future implications for facial composite tissue allotransplantation.
Methods: A thorough review of five publications by the four transplantation groups was conducted. Additional information gathered from official press releases or surgeon presentations was also included. Summary of data and comparative analysis were performed.
Results: Patient selection is of utmost importance; specifically, patient compliance with the immunosuppressive and postoperative regimen. Functional and aesthetic improvement must be achieved by composite tissue allotransplantation reconstruction to justify lifelong immunosuppression; therefore, patients with loss of perioral and/or periorbital structures have priority. Objective measures are required to monitor this functional restoration. The importance of viral mismatch was demonstrated by the severe cytomegalovirus viremia observed in the third facial transplant patient. Finally, the mucosa appears to be a predictor of rejection and is more antigenic than skin. Histopathologic diagnosis of mucosal rejection may allow early treatment and prevention of subsequent diffuse composite tissue allotransplant rejection.
Conclusions: The pioneering teams that ventured into facial composite tissue allotransplantation offered their patients improved aesthetic, functional, and social outcomes not possible with conventional measures in a single procedure. In addition, these innovative facial composite tissue allografts have provided early data on important factors related to patient selection, donor/recipient matching, immunosuppressive protocols, objective measures of functional recovery, and monitoring of acute graft rejection.