LILLE (France) • The world's first face transplant recipient, French woman Isabelle Dinoire, has died after a long illness, a hospital said.
In 2005, at the age of 38, Mrs 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 hospital in Amiens, northern France, on Tuesday confirmed the death of "Mrs D, the first patient in the world to receive a face transplant". She died in April. The groundbreaking operation had raised hopes around the world for victims with faces disfigured in accidents or assaults, with surgeons in the United States, Spain, China, Belgium, Poland and Turkey performing partial or full transplants since the surgery on Mrs Dinoire.
But the initial enthusiasm over the procedure has been tempered by a daunting risk that the patient's body will eventually reject the donor's tissue.
Le Figaro newspaper reported that Mrs Dinoire's body had rejected the transplant last year "and she had lost part of the use of her lips".
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.
Dr Jean-Pierre Meningaud, of a team at a Paris hospital that has performed seven face transplants, told AFP: "All the patients we operated on have had reactions of rejection, which leads to higher doses of drugs, and with them, the risks."
He added that 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". Dr Meningaud said that with Mrs Dinoire's death, "we should put these transplants on hold pending advances in immunology".
The first full face transplant was performed by a Spanish team in March 2010 on a man whose face was disfigured in an accident.