World’s first face transplant patient has died 11 years after the surgery that left her battling with cancers and other immune complications.
Isabbelle Dinnoire, AFP said Tuesday, died in April but the French hospital where the transplant took place decided to keep it secret for her family’s sake.
In 2005, at the age of 38, Dinoire received a graft comprising the nose, lips and chin of a brain-dead donor to replace parts of her face that had been mauled by her dog.
The surgery had raised hopes around the world for victims like Dinnoire. And surgeons in the United States, Spain, China, Belgium, Poland and Turkey started performing partial or full transplants since the ground-breaking surgery on Dinoire.
But the problem is the immunological clashes that result in body rejections.
According to Jean-Pierre Meningaud, lead surgeon of Paris hospital that has performed seven face transplants, who was quoted in the AFP report, all the patients we operated on have had reactions of rejection, which leads to higher doses of drugs, and with them, the risks.
He noted in addition to the risk of rejection a number of other problems can crop up including “grafts that age a little faster than (the patient), problems of (skin) colour, high blood pressure (and) mood.”
Meningaud said that with Dinoire’s death, “we should put these transplants on hold pending advances in immunology”.
Dinoire’s body had rejected the transplant last year, and she had lost part of the use of her lips, Le Figaro newspaper reported.
The drugs that she had to take to prevent her body from rejecting the transplant left her susceptible to cancer, and two forms of cancer had developed, the report said.
Dinoire gave a remarkable news conference in February 2006, just three months after the operation, when the blonde, blue-eyed mother of two appeared before a scrum of TV cameras.
She appeared to be wearing thick makeup to disguise the scars of the procedure and lips that were heavy and inflexible.
She spoke with a pronounced lisp but was otherwise comprehensible as she recounted how she had fainted after “taking medicines to forget” personal problems.
“When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette and I couldn’t understand why it didn’t stay between my lips. Then I saw the pool of blood and the dog next to me,” she said.
“I went to look in the mirror and was horrified.”
But the ground-breaking operation gave her a new lease of life.
“Since my operation I have a face, like everyone… I will be able to resume a normal life,” the divorcee said.
The operation was led by Jean-Michel Dubernard, a world-renowned surgeon at Edouard Herriot hospital in the eastern city of Lyon, and Bernard Devauchelle, a professor of facial surgery.
Dubernard had performed the world’s first hand transplant in September 1998, followed by the first double hand and forearm transplant in January 2000.
The transplant team came under fire from within the French medical profession for releasing post-operation pictures of the patient.
At the time, a specialist in reconstructive surgery, Maurice Mimoun, recognised the emotional nature of the debate, noting the face’s “relationship with the soul”.
While Dinnoire had a partial face transaplant, man whose face was disfigured in an accident had the first full face transplant performed by a Spanish team in March 2010.