Woman's Face Reattached In Rare Surgery

MELBOURNE, Australia - In a rare, 25-hour operation, surgeons reattached the face of a woman after a farm machine tore much of her scalp and face from her head, doctors said today.

The 28-year-old woman from Shepparton, in central Victoria state, lost virtually her entire face and scalp when her hair caught in machinery in a milking shed Sept. 16.

"I have never seen anything so ghastly, so macabre as this," said Dr. Wayne Morrison, who headed the St. Vincent's Hospital team that reattached her face.

He was referring to the exposed bones and muscle.

"The tissue that was sent to us was packed in ice, and when we unraveled it and laid it out, here was a face looking at us," Morrison told Australian Broadcasting radio today.

The woman, whose name was not released to protect her family's identity, was found by a friend after the accident.

Morrison said he had never operated on a patient with such extensive injuries.

The surgeons - two Australians, one Indian and two Japanese - used microscopes to magnify tiny blood vessels up to 30 times in order to match the vessels in the amputated tissue with the remaining tissue.

As they worked, the woman was given up to 30 units of blood - almost double the amount contained in a body.

The surgeons said they are confident most of the face was successfully reattached.

Doctors say the woman will look much as she used to with the exception of scars around her eyelids and chin. She remained under sedation in intensive care.

If the scalp reattaches, the woman may be able to go home within two weeks.

If not, she would require further surgery and skin grafts.

Morrison said the woman also may need surgery to improve the scars.

"But she will still be identifiable and have her own personality. She will have animation of her face and the essential characteristics of her face will be there," he said.