Background: Full face transplantation raises a new set of ethical concerns and technical difficulties when compared with partial face transplantation. Previously, it was thought that full face allografts must include bilateral superficial temporal and facial arteries, dictating the need for inclusion of donor parotid glands. This would lead to poor aesthetic outcomes and limit facial nerve coaptation to the level of the main trunk, which often results in synkinesias. The authors present a new approach to full facial allograft recovery based on blood supply from facial arteries alone. This approach eliminates the need to include parotid glands, enabling more distal coaptation of facial nerve branches and targeted innervation of effector muscles. The recovery can be reproducibly performed within 4 hours.
Methods: Three mock cadaver dissections and three full face transplantations were performed.
Results: Donor facial allografts were dissected in cranio-caudal and lateral-to-medial fashion. Individual facial nerve branches were cut medial to parotid glands and coapted to corresponding recipient nerve branches. With the exception of one parotid gland used to add bulk, parotids were generally not included in the allografts. Relevant sensory nerves were coapted. External carotid arteries were dissected, leaving only bilateral facial arteries as the primary arterial supply. All full facial allografts were well perfused immediately following transplantation and are surviving.
Conclusions: The authors describe a new, simple, and reproducible technique of full facial allograft recovery that allows perfusion using only bilateral facial arteries. Their technique follows critical principles of targeted sensory and motor nerve coaptation.
CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic, V.