29 March 2012
A thirty-seven year old American man injured in a 1997 gun incident has successfully undergone what doctors say is the most extensive face transplant ever performed. The operation took place at the University of Maryland and the lead surgeon says the patient will now get his life back.
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Richard Lee Norris has spent the last fifteen years living as a recluse, wearing a mask to hide the severe injuries he received from a gun accident. Now surgeons at the University of Maryland medical centre have given Mr Norris a new face - his teeth, tongue and jaw are also new.
The thirty-six-hour operation was, say the doctors who performed it, the most extensive face transplant ever. The first such operation was performed in France in 2005, on a woman who was mauled by her dog.
The University of Maryland's transplant research has been funded by the US navy. Surgeons hope they can soon begin operating on military patients wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US government estimates that 200 wounded troops might be eligible for face transplants.
Richard Lee Norris is, say his doctors, recovering well after the surgery. He's brushing his teeth and shaving, and has regained his sense of smell.
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person who lives alone and avoids other people
physical harm or damage
doctors who do medical operations
lower part of his face
did, carried out
operation where parts of the body (e.g. organs or skin) are moved from one person's body to another
- mauled by
injured by the teeth or claws of
- be eligible
have the right characteristics to obtain