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Isabelle Dinoire Dies At 49, Should Her Face Transplant Operations Be Blamed?

First Posted: Sep 07, 2016 07:12 AM EDT
Transplant Surgery
A transplant surgical operation requires a careful selection of donor organ to receiver to avoid rejection. Patients are also required to have follow up operations to maintain the safety of the organ in the new body and avoid infection. Scotth23 / Pixabay CC0

The world's first ever face transplant patient, Isabelle Dinoire has died due to undisclosed complications according to her French doctors.

Her face transplant procedure was performed in November 2005 which became ground-breaking news for the medical society. The same hospital, Amiens Hospital, where the transplant was performed released a statement after her death on April 22, 2016, saying it was caused by "a long illness."

Furthermore, the hospital clarified why there was a delay in announcing her death. "In accordance with the will of her relatives, no obituary was published in the press in order to protect their legitimate privacy at that painful time," as said in their official statement. However, the hospital failed to disclose any details on the cause of Dinoire's death. But French media reported that she suffered complications after her most recent operation.

It was reported in a prominent French newspaper that Dinoire had a rejection issue of the transplants last winter where she lost some movements of her lips. Le Figaro also reported that she had to endure heavy anti-rejection treatments to keep her transplants, which they believe have impacted greatly on the occurrence of two cancers. It was a sad story for Dinoire back when she was 38 years old and her dog mauled almost half of her face.

The operation received so much criticism during that time with a lot of practitioners questioning the need for a face transplant rather than opting for reconstructive surgery. But French surgeons in charge, Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard and Dr. Bernard Devauchelle carried out the operation rather than settling for the traditional reconstructive surgery option. They used the nose, mouth, and chin of a brain-dead donor. And they used a lower part of the face from a woman who committed suicide.

A year after the operation, Dinoire was happy to say, "It may be someone else's face, but when I look in the mirror, I see me." Years after the success of Dinoire's transplant operation, many surgical operations similar to hers involving varying combinations of facial transplants have been conducted in six different countries.


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