The first person to undergo a partial face transplant has died. The daring and revolutionary operation has since led the way for 36 other facial transplants worldwide.
Isabelle Dinoire died almost five months ago on April 22, but Amiens Picardie hospital has only just made the public announcement. She died aged 49 from cancer, inadvertently caused by immunosuppressive drugs used so she did not reject the transplant.
Dinoire received the transplanted nose, lips, and chin at Amiens Picardie hospital on November 27, 2005. The French woman lost much of her lower face after she passed out from a sleeping pills overdose and was mauled by her dog.
After being hospitalized, she was forced to stay within half an hour of the Amiens Picardie hospital so they could operate on her at extremely short notice, should a potential transplant come their way. Eventually, two months after the attack, she received the nose, lips, and chin of a brain-dead woman through a complex 15-hour operation led by Dr Jean-Michel Dubernard and Dr Bernard Devauchelle.
"I now have a face like everyone else," Dinoire said at the press conference following the operation. "A door to the future is opening."
The operation was seen as a success. However, within the first year of the transplant, she presented with two acute rejection episodes. Much of her life was followed by a series of partial losses of the graft and further complications, according to French newspaper, Le Figaro.
In spring 2016, it became apparent she was still suffering from a malignant tumor that was treated the year before. The hospital said it was a “rare tumor” that can be “scientifically linked to immunosuppressive therapy.” The drugs used to prevent her body rejecting the transplant by suppressing parts of her immune system left her weak to cancers. She died in hospital surrounded by her family.
While the death of Dinoire is untimely, it should not take away from the many success stories this biomedical breakthrough has helped create. One of which was former firefighter Patrick Hardison, who just recently has shown the miraculous progress he has made one year on from the operation.