French doctors conduct full face transplant: report

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French doctors have carried out a successful full-face transplant -- eyelids, tear ducts and all -- on a 35-year-old man, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Doctors carried out the operation at the end of June on the man whose face had been deformed by a genetic disorder, the newspaper Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui said, naming the man only as Jerome.

The doctor who carried out the operation, Laurent Lantieri, was quoted by the newspaper as saying it was a world first, although Spanish doctors in April said they performed a similar procedure.

"My patient is doing well. He is walking, eating, talking. His beard has started to grow back on his new face," said Lantieri, who operated on Jerome at the Creteil Henri-Mondor hospital in the Paris suburbs.

"The first time he looked at himself in the mirror he stuck both thumbs up," Lantieri told the newspaper. "He was waiting for this transplant for two years. He is very happy."

Neither the patient nor doctor were immediately available to talk to AFP about the operation and the hospital had yet to formally announce it on Thursday morning.

A full-face transplant involves the removal of the entire face from a corpse, including mouth and eyelids, and grafting it onto the patient. Nerves and blood vessels are connected under a microscope.

"We are the first to have done a full-face transplant including eyelids and tear ducts. I am proud because this has been done in France," Lantieri was quoted as saying, saying it took fewer than 10 people to do the operation.

Other doctors have already claimed to have carried out a full transplant.

In April, a 30-strong team at the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona said they had conducted a full-face transplant on a young man whose face was badly injured in an accident.

There have been a handful of other face transplants recorded to date, three of them in France, where doctors five years ago claimed the first partial face transplant.

In 2005 Isabelle Dinoire, 38 at the time, received the nose, lips and chin of a donor to replace parts of her face that had been mauled by a dog.

That operation was led by Bernard Devauchelle, a professor of facial surgery at a hospital in Amiens, northern France.

In April 2009, Lantieri and his colleagues also claimed another world first for replacing part of the face and both hands of a man in a single operation.

A face transplant is considered one of the toughest surgical tasks. It combines micro-surgery to connect nerves and blood vessels and a high risk of rejection by the recipient's immune system.

"Beyond the grafting itself, these transplants are going to teach us a lot about numerous other areas of such as immunology," Lantieri said.

© 2010 AFP

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