After horrific accident, face transplant restores man's ability to breathe, eat, speak

Image 1 of 2

A Canadian man disfigured in an accidental shooting (left) underwent a face transplant (right). (Courtesy of Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont)

Seven years ago, a hunting accident left a Canadian man severely disfigured, in constant pain, and laboring to breathe, eat, sleep and speak.

But four months after undergoing a 30-hour operation involving more than 100 medical professionals, that 64-year-old man can properly breathe, chew, smell, and speak.

And he has a new face.

Dr. Daniel Borsuk, a plastic surgeon affiliated with the University of Montreal, led a team of surgeons at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont in May to repair the man's face, jaw muscles, teeth, lips, and nose.

"This delicate operation is the result of years of concerted, meticulous work by an incredible team and the incredible bravery and cooperation of the patient and his family," Dr. Borsuk said in a news release. "Through the combination of science, technology, engineering and art we attempted to build on the knowledge and experience of the pioneers in the field to perform the best facial transplant possible for our patient."

The man, whose identity is being kept private, underwent five reconstructive surgeries in the years after the accidental shooting, the hospital said. But surgeons decided that ultimately the face transplant was the man's best option to restore his jaws, facial muscles and nerves, teeth, lips, and nose.

"Four months after the procedure, the patient is doing well," the hospital said in the news release. "He has fully recovered the ability to breathe and has begun to chew with his new jaws, smell through his new nose and speak using his new lips."

The patient is the oldest person to undergo a face transplant, the hospital said.

Since 2005, 40 other people have undergone the extremely complex procedure.