Educational video may increase public willingness to become face transplant donors

Jan. 3, 2018

After watching a brief educational video, members of the public are more likely to say they would be willing to donate a facial transplant to a severely disfigured patient, reports a study in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

“The overwhelming challenge of organ donor shortage can potentially be addressed through education,” comments ASPS Member Surgeon Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, Chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Health, New York. “Increased knowledge can positively impact willingness to become a transplant donor.”

Dr. Rodriguez and colleagues performed a survey study to see how a brief educational intervention affected willingness to become a facial transplant donor. Researchers approached 200 members of the public in a New York park, and surveyed them regarding their willingness to be an organ or facial transplant donor. About half of the participants said they were registered organ donors.

One hundred respondents were then shown a three-minute video, on a tablet computer, providing an educational introduction to facial transplantation. The video provided basic information on patients eligible for face transplants, the donor-recipient matching process, and the challenges and recovery after the procedure. It also highlighted the outcomes of two patients treated by the NYU Langone facial transplant team.

Sixty-nine percent of participants said they would be willing to donate their organs after death. Before watching the educational video, 51% said they would be willing to be face transplant donors. After the video, 69% of participants said they would be willing to donate for facial transplantation—the same percentage who said they would be willing to donate organs.

The response to the educational video was greater in younger (aged 18 to 35) and older (over 56) participants, compared to middle-aged participants. The video also appeared to have a greater impact in women and African American subjects, although these differences were not statistically significant. There were also no major differences by religion.

Facial transplantation has become a successful treatment for patients with severe facial disfigurement. But as for organ donation, the global shortage of facial transplants is a challenging problem. There are many questions about public attitudes toward facial transplantation and other types of vascularized composite tissue allografts (VCAs—hand transplants are another example of VCAs).

American Society of Plastic Surgeons has the full release

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