Recipient of first-ever face transplant dies in France | News | DW | 06.09.2016
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Recipient of first-ever face transplant dies in France

Isabelle Dinoire has died at 49 "after a long illness," according to the hospital responsible for her revolutionary surgery. Some doctors have called into question the usefulness of the procedure in the long-term.

The Frenchwoman who received the first ever partial face transplant has died at the age of 49, the Amiens University Hospital announced on Tuesday. According to the statement, Isabelle Dinoire died in April "after a long illness," but her family wanted her death kept private.

Dinoire was mauled by her Labrador retriever in May 2005 when it could not rouse her after she passed out from taking a sleeping pill. In November of that year, Doctors Bernard Decauchelle and Jean-Michel Dubernard made headlines by completing the world's first successful face transplant, giving Dinoire back a nose, lips and chin taken from a brain dead donor.

The cutting-edge procedure gave hope to victims of facial disfiguration all around the world. Since the success in France, surgeons in the United States, Spain, China, Turkey, Poland and Belgium have completed both partial and full facial transplants following the trail blazed by Decauchelle and Dubernard.

Doubts about long-term results

But according to Le Figaro newspaper, Dinoire's body had begun to reject the transplant in the past year. The daily also reported that drugs she had used to prevent such an occurrence had made her vulnerable to cancer, the eventual cause of her death.

Dinoire's cases has led some doctors, like Jean-Paul Meningaud, head reconstructive surgery at Henri Mondor Hospital south of Paris, to call for a suspension in conducting the procedure until the long-term benefits could be adequately weighed against the risks.

"The results were very good in the medium term, but the long-term results were not so good," Meningaud said of Dinoire. Her immune system reportedly rejected the grafts twice, a huge risk in all transplant surgeries.

Meningaud, who has assisted in 7 of France's 10 facial transplants, has said he has seen patients have more problems with anti-rejection medicine that was initially expected, where more follow-up surgery was required than anticipated.

es/rc (AFP, AP)