Current pediatric burn care has resulted in survival being the expectation for most children. Composite tissue allotransplantation in the form of face or hand transplantation may present opportunities for reconstructive surgery of patients with burns. The present paper addresses the question “Could facial transplantation be of therapeutic benefit in the treatment of pediatric burns associated with facial disfigurement?”
Therapeutic benefit of facial transplantation was defined in terms of psychiatric adjustment and quality of life (QOL). To ascertain therapeutic benefit, studies of pediatric burn injury and associated psychiatric adjustment and QOL in children, adolescents and adults with pediatric burns, were reviewed.
Pediatric burn injury is associated with anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive disorders. Many patients with pediatric burns do not routinely access psychiatric care for these disorders, including those for psychiatric assessment of suicidal risk. A range of QOL outcomes were reported; four were predominantly satisfactory and one was predominantly unsatisfactory.
Facial transplantation may reduce the risk of depressive and anxiety disorders other than post-traumatic stress disorder. Facial transplantation promises to be the new reconstructive psychosurgery, because it may be a surgical intervention with the potential to reduce the psychiatric suffering associated with pediatric burns. Furthermore, patients with pediatric burns may experience the stigma of disfigurement and psychiatric conditions. The potential for improved appearance with facial transplantation may reduce this ‘dual stigmata’. Studies combining surgical and psychiatric research are warranted.