Transplant woman likes 'new' face better

5th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

LYON, France, Dec 4 (AFP) - The French woman who received the world's first partial face transplant is in excellent health and delighted with the result of the groundbreaking operation, her surgeon said on Sunday.

LYON, France, Dec 4 (AFP) - The French woman who received the world's first partial face transplant is in excellent health and delighted with the result of the groundbreaking operation, her surgeon said on Sunday.

Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard repeated a denial that the woman was injured after attempting to commit suicide, following a report in a British newspaper which said it had interviewed the 38-year-old.

"I have just left her room, she is doing impeccably well. She is very happy," he told AFP by telephone from the central-eastern city of Lyon, where the patient is being kept under medical observation.

"The appearance of the graft is normal," said the professor, a transplant pioneer who carried out the world's first double hand graft five years ago.

"She even prefers her face now than before -- now that should put to rest all the ethical controversy," he said, in reference to concerns that the patient would be unable to adapt to her changed face.

"She said she was quite satisfied with the result from an aesthetic point of view, and was very happy with her new face."

The mother of two from the town of Valenciennes in northern France, lost both lips, her nose and chin after she was mauled by her dog in May, and was unable to speak or eat properly.

Doctors transplanted a nose, chin and mouth taken from a brain-dead donor on to her lower face in the northern French town of Amiens last weekend, a world first for an operation that carries high medical risks.

Dubernard told AFP that his team planned to carry out "at least five" more facial transplant operations and that the university hospitals of Lyon and Amiens were seeking clinical research fundung from the French health ministry.

He said the recipient of the transplant was due to leave hospital within four to six weeks, but that it would take around six months for the transplanted area to recover its full mobility and sensitivity.

On Thursday, she received a first injection of stem cells taken from the donor's bone marrow, aimed at increasing her long-term tolerance of the graft, with a second tranfusion planned for next Thursday, he said.

The professor strongly denied that the woman was disfigured following a suicide attempt, and slammed as "odious" the publication of confidential information about the patient and donor.

The patient's 17-year-old daughter told AFP in an interview last week that the family labrador had bitten her face to revive her after she took an overdose of sleeping pills.

According to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, which released the woman's identity, she confirmed in a telephone interview that she took an overdose of pills in an attempt to kill herself.

The newspaper also reported that the multi-organ donor, whose family gave their consent for the transplant, had committed suicide by hanging herself.

Doctors in Europe and the United States have had the technical ability to carry out facial transplants for some time, but held back because of ethical concerns about the high-risk procedure.

The graft can fail if the minute nerves and tiny blood vessels of the face do not connect properly, and there is a risk of rejection by the body's immune system, which perceives tissue grafted from a donor as foreign.

A transplant recipient has to endure life-long immuno-suppressing medication that can have bad side effects, and face the psychological challenge of carrying part of a dead person's body.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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