Repairing nerve damage is a difficult task that yields questionable results, however, a recent study revealed remarkable sensory recovery in four facial transplant patients. Surgical reconnection of the nerves was impossible in three of the patients, due to the severity of their trauma or to technical problems, yet all four patients began regaining sensation within two weeks of having surgery. By the one-year anniversary of their surgeries, all four patients reported having normal or near-normal sensory function.
This type of recovery begs the question: How can sensory recovery have been so successful when damaged nerves weren’t even repaired? According to researchers, the results are probably attributed to the dense volume of nerves found in the facial area, which may have sped up sensation recovery and increased nerve regeneration. Doctors also admit that other factors may have contributed to the patients’ recovery including immune-suppressant drugs and sensory re-education therapy. Whatever the contributing factors may be there is still more research to be done, but at this point facial transplants appear to be the only known surgery in which this type of recovery is known to occur.
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