Isabelle Dinoire: First Face Transplant Recipient Dies

Isabelle Dinoire, who received the first successful face transplant, has died at the age of 49. Although she reportedly passed away on April 22, France’s Amiens University Hospital vowed to respect the family’s request for privacy. At this time, it is unclear whether the woman’s face transplant contributed to her death.

In 2005, Dinoire was reportedly suffering from depression. In an attempt to relieve her stress, the divorced mother of two admittedly “took some drugs” and passed out.

Although she survived the overdose, Isabelle was attacked by her Labrador Retriever while unconscious. As a result, her face was severely disfigured.

During her recovery, Dinoire’s doctors suggested reconstructive surgery and the possibility of a partial face transplant. However, they also warned her about the associated risks, including organ rejection.

CBS News reports Isabelle Dinoire was well aware of the possible risks. However, as the injuries made it difficult for her to eat and speak, the woman was willing to undergo a face transplant to improve her quality of life.

On November 27, 2005, Isabelle underwent the 15-hour surgery to replace a portion of her damaged flesh. According to reports, the healthy tissue, which included a nose and lips, was donated by the family of a woman who was declared brain dead.

The following day, representatives with Amiens University Hospital confirmed the first face transplant was a success.

Although Isabelle Dinoire’s operation was deemed a success, and admittedly improved her quality of life, the woman’s face transplant was not free from complications.

Doctors confirmed Isabelle’s “immune system nearly rejected the transplant” on at least two occasions. It was also reported that she eventually lost partial use of her lips and was diagnosed with two different forms of cancer — which were both reportedly linked to the operation.

It is unclear whether the complications were directly related to Dinoire’s death. However, the Amiens University Hospital representative confirmed she suffered from a long-term illness, which ultimately ended her life.

Isabelle Dinoire received the first successful face transplant. However, in the last 11 years, doctors have performed more than 20 similar surgeries with varying degrees of success.

Unfortunately, the possibility of face transplant rejection is a lifelong concern for the recipients. In some cases, anti-rejection medications deter or prevent serious complications. However, some recipients are forced to undergo numerous follow-up surgeries.

The associated complications, including face transplant rejection, have prompted some doctors to speak out against the procedures.

Dr. Jean-Paul Meningaud, who participated in seven face transplant surgeries, said it is “time to mark a pause.” In his opinion, the long-term risks associated with the procedures are simply not worth it.

The doctor admits Isabelle Dinoire’s operation was “an unquestionable surgical success.” However, he said her “long-term results were not so good.”

Despite the complications experienced by Isabelle and many others, 41-year-old Patrick Hardison said he is thriving following his August 2015 face transplant.

In 2001, the Senatobia, Mississippi, firefighter was severely burned while battling a house fire. As a result, his ears, eyelids, hair, lips, and nose, were largely destroyed.

For the next 13 years, Hardison lived with the devastating disfigurement. However, in 2015, he had an opportunity to undergo an extensive face transplant surgery.

Although the operation lasted more than 20 hours, and involved nearly 100 surgeons, Patrick Hardison’s face transplant was a success. Doctors have reported that the 42-year-old man now has improved vision and normally functioning eyelids. CNN reports he has not experienced any significant rejection episodes at this time.

Unfortunately, Isabelle Dinoire’s was not as lucky. Although the woman’s face transplant improved her quality of life for several years, long-term issues associated with the operation may be responsible for ending her life.

[Photo by Michel Spingler, File/AP Images]

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