The first partial face transplant was performed in 2005. The patient was severely disfigured in a dog attack. The surgery allowed this woman to eat and speak again. Scientists are now planning for the world's first full face transplant.
While many people have expressed interest in the transplant, doctors must carefully select their patients. The patients must have damage that is untreatable with current techniques. Patients must also be willing to take immunosuppressants (to stop their immune system from attacking the donor face) in order to prevent rejection. And, in the case that the face is rejected, donors must have enough of their own (undamaged) skin that doctors could replace the donor face with the person's own skin, if necessary. Choosing an appropriate candidate for the operation is almost as difficult as the procedure itself.
Many people ask if the person receiving the transplant will look like the person who donated the face. The answer is no. They will look like a combination of the two faces. It is not only the skin itself, but the bone structure of the skull underneath that determines what your face will look like.