For the first time, plastic surgeons have reconstructed a burn victim’s entire face using a single sheet of thick skin harvested from his back. Unlike after conventional multiple grafts, the patient’s lips and eyes opened and closed properly and his skin looked smoother and more natural.

You need to see these before and after photos.

Hiroyuki Sakurai and colleagues from the Tokyo Women’s Medical University in Japan used a new technique, avoiding the traditional method of patching together a series of thin flaps which often disrupts facial function and appearance.

“It’s like having a fresh canvas on which to paint rather than one that’s been cut up and sewn back together,” explains Thomas Stevenson, a plastic surgeon at the University of California, Davis.

Sakurai presents the work on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Plastic Surgeons in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His team used a method of “tissue expansion” to harvest a single sheet of skin from the back, rather than relying on a series of patches.

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