National

Jul 27, 2010 9:57 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

New program rebuilding faces of soldiers, veterans

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought a new kind of patient to the facial prothestics lab at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio: wounded warriors, who have recently suffered heavy burns and multiple traumas.

The lab is one of two major facial prosthetic programs in the Defense Department, and because it's across town from the Army's only burn center, it has seen an unprecedented new stream of wounded soldiers.

Before the wars, the lab's patients were almost exclusively cancer and civilian trauma survivors, but lab director Dr. Joe Villalobos said, "All of that prepared us for wartime."

The facility rarely saw combat-related injuries before 2001. Now, wounded warriors make up about one-fifth of the roughly 425 patients they treat each year.

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