Historic partial-face, two-hand transplant

DOZENS of doctors working in teams for more than 30 hours performed the world’s first simultaneous partial-face and double-hand transplant at the weekend, Paris’s Public Hospital authority said yesterday.

The authority described the recipient as a 30-year-old burn victim. The man, whose name was not released, was injured in a 2004 accident that left him with scars “preventing any social life,” it said.

No further details were provided by officials, but French media reports said the upper half of the man’s face, including the scalp, forehead and eyelids, were transplanted.

The authority’s statement said the operation, performed at the Henri Mondor hospital in the Paris suburb of Creteil, was the world’s sixth partial-face transplant, but the first to include hands as well.

A French woman, Isabelle Dinoire, underwent the first partial face transplant in 2005 in Amiens, France. Other recipients include another European patient, a Chinese farmer and a woman operated on late last year in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dinoire was disfigured when her dog chewed her face after she passed out from an overdose of sleeping pills. She lost part of her nose, lips, chin, and parts of her cheeks.

French doctors gave Dinoire, then 38, a new face from a brain-dead donor, as well as bone marrow cells that they hoped would prevent rejection. Dinoire had two instances of rejection — one month after her surgery and again a year later.

Last month a 28-year-old man received a face transplant at a Paris hospital. The patient had been disfigured by a shotgun blast.

Other recipients have also have been plagued by rejection, a problem that worries Dr Patrick Warnke, a professor of surgery at the University of Kiel in Germany who has expressed scepticism about the procedure.

“I think the hype about face transplants is too much,” he said yesterday.

He pointed to the risk of long-term use of immuno-suppression drugs aimed at preventing rejection, which he said could cause cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

“I’m worried that patients don’t understand what it means to be on these drugs for the rest of their lives,” he said.


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