The rebuilt faces of war: Shocking pictures show how ‘the father of plastic surgery’ reconstructed horribly disfigured WWI soldiers in pioneering London hospital

As reported on the mail online.

With the First World War came an increasing need for a solution for facial injuries.

And by 1917 the first skin graft had been performed by a doctor from New Zealand who reconstructed the face of a man burnt during combat.

Sir Harold Gillies used a technique called Tube Pedicle Flaps to take skin from the forehead or the chest and swing it in to place without cutting it entirely from the body.

A British sailor named Walter Yeo had been horribly burned in combat. His nose was shattered and his eyelids removed.

Using skin from Yeo’s neck and upper chest, Sir Gillies made a mask of skin that he transplanted across Yeo’s face. 

This helped repair the damage that had been done, hiding his disfiguration and allowing him to close his eyes.

The absence of antibiotics meant skin could not be removed from another part of the body such as the leg to then be placed on the face.

Instead the skin was cut away, while remaining attached, and stitched in to a tube shape to ensure blood still flowed and risk of infection was reduced.

Over time the new tissue fused with the old to form a new layer of skin over the wound and these photographs of men at London’s King George Military Hospital show the improvement the technique made.

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