World’s First Whole-Eye and Partial-Face Transplant Successfully Completed

Recently, a surgical team from NYU Langone Health in New York accomplished a groundbreaking 21-hour surgery, conducting the world’s first whole-eye transplant and a partial-face transplant. The procedure, which occurred on May 27, involved transplanting the entire left eye and a portion of the face from a single donor, establishing a historic precedent in medical history.

Stated in the official press release from NYU Langone Health, “The surgery included transplanting the entire left eye and a portion of the face from a single donor, making this the first-ever human whole-eye transplant in medical history and the only successful combined transplant case of its kind.”

Despite uncertainties about whether Aaron James, a 46-year-old military veteran from Arkansas and the recipient, will regain sight, the transplanted left eye has exhibited promising signs of health post-procedure, including direct blood flow to the retina. NYU Langone Health highlighted that, although many questions persist due to the absence of precedent, this achievement opens new possibilities for future advancements in vision therapies.

Leading the surgical team of over 140 professionals, including surgeons and nurses, was Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, director of the Face Transplant Program at NYU Langone. Aaron James, a high-voltage lineman, faced a 7,200-volt electric shock in June 2021, resulting in the loss of his left eye.

The young donor, in his 30s, originated from a family staunchly supporting organ donation. Leonard Achan, RN, MA, ANP, president, and CEO of LiveOnNY, noted, “He, supported by his family, generously donated tissues leading to this successful face and eye transplant, but also saved three other individuals between the ages of 20 and 70, donating his kidneys, liver, and pancreas.”

This milestone surgery not only provides hope to the recipient but also sets the stage for potential advancements in the field of vision therapies.

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