Already, doctors at the University of Louisville in Kentucky say they hope to soon select a candidate for the operation, possibly within the year. The same team performed the first U.S. hand transplant (and second in the world) in 1999. Surgeons in other countries are pursuing the possibility of a face transplant as well. All agree it's just a matter of time until the world's first face transplant.
"Technically, what our reconstructive surgeons do to reconstruct a face is probably harder than doing a face transplant," [John Barker] said. "A donor is in pristine condition. Everything is planned. You remove all the tissue you need from the donor -- even more than you need. You cut away the excess you don't need."
The first candidate for a face transplant would be someone who has been disfigured for some time and has the emotional wherewithal to deal with the transplant, Barker said. There is no way to predict how the recipient might feel with a new face, he added.