Belgian surgeons have successfully performed the country's first-ever face transplant, the 19th in the world, doctors announced Saturday.
Officials at the University Hospital of Ghent said a team of 65 surgeons and medical staff had performed the 20-hour operation a week earlier on a Belgian man with a severely mutilated face.
"He's fine, he's doing very well after six days," surgical team leader Phillip Blondeel told Belgian television. "He's already swallowed a little water."
Blondeel said the patient, whose name was not disclosed, was already able to speak, surpassing doctors' expectations.
"We didn't think he would be able to speak so soon."
The patient had been missing skin around the central part of his face, as well as lips, facial muscles and nerves.
The operation brings to 19 the number of face transplants carried out worldwide. The first was a partial face transplant on Frenchwoman Isabelle Dinoire in 2005.
Belgium is the third European country after France and Spain to have carried out the operation.
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