14/08/2014 16:55 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Horrifically Burnt Girl Transplanted With New Face Grown On Her Breast

Horrifically burnt girl transplanted with new face grown on her breast

A teenage girl who was horrifically disfigured in a fire has had a new face grown – on her breast.

When she was five years old, Xu Jianmei's face was burnt off.

But after an incredible eight-hour transplant operation, the now 17-year-old woke up with a new face – and the ability to smile for the first time in 12 years.

The incredible procedure to give Ms Xu a chin, eyelids and an ear was carried out in the city of Fuzhou, in Fujian province, China.

Her parents were unable to afford to pay for her to have plastic surgery but she was given hope when doctors offered to carry out the pioneering operation for free.

It meant the girl from a small fishing village could receive the face transplant which was carried out using tissue from her chest.

The transplant team implanted a blood vessel from her leg into her chest and then used a water-filled balloon to expand her skin to create enough to make her new face.

Video footage from the surgery shows Ms Xu lying in a hospital bed, barely conscious and severely swollen, but with smooth flesh now replacing the ridged scars of her old face.

"With her new face she will be able to express herself in a more precise way. She will even be able to blush when her emotions change, but it will take a long time," said her surgeon, Jiang Chenhong.

"First, we took a piece of blood vessel fascia from her thigh and implanted it in her chest. 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."

Chinese teams are said to have performed several similar transplant surgeries in recent months, including creating a new nose on a car accident survivor's forehead.