A Chinese teenager continues to recover this week after successfully receiving a face transplant created using tissue from her chest.
Xu Jianmei, a 17-year-old girl from southeast China's Fujian Province, was disfigured 12 years ago in a terrible fire, according to reports. Although the severe burns destroyed her chin, eyelids and part of her right ear, the teen did not receive the appropriate treatment at the time because her family could not afford it.
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Last year, Xu got an amazing chance at a new life when doctors suggested growing skin on her chest to use in a face transplant.
"First, we took a piece of blood vessel fascia from her thigh and implanted it in her chest," said Xu's surgeon, Jiang Chenghong, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua. "Then we inserted a skin expander beneath the part of skin where the blood vessel fascia was planted, so that the part could expand and produce enough skin for her new face."
Doctors have been preparing for the procedure for months. The team had to be very careful as they used a water-filled balloon to slowly expand the growing patch of skin until it was large enough to cover the girl's damaged features, reports the BBC.
"With her new face, [Xu] will be able to express herself in a more precise way," Jiang said, according to Xinhua. "She will even be able to blush when her emotions change."
The eight-hour surgery was completed on Oct. 15. After two weeks, doctors are calling the procedure a success, although Xu will probably have to have minor additional surgery in the future, notes the South China Morning Post.
The transplant marks a ground-breaking moment in Chinese medicine, according to the BBC.
Chinese doctors attempted the country's first donor face transplant on a farmer back in 2006; the patient died two years later. In September doctors successfully grew a new nose on the forehead of a car accident victim's forehead.
WARNING: This video features graphic medical images.