PARIS – A year after a Frenchwoman received the world's first partial face transplant, doctors say the operation was a success and she is gaining more and more sensitivity and facial mobility.
As British and American doctors work on plans for a first full-face transplant, the medical team at the hospital in Amiens in northern France issued a new photo and a statement Monday, exactly a year after they transplanted the lips, nose and chin of a brain-dead woman onto Isabelle Dinoire.
In the new photo, Dinoire is almost smiling, and appears to have better control over her face than she did at a news conference in February, her only formal public appearance since the operation.
Dinoire's immune system nearly rejected the transplant twice, the doctors' statement said, but was given immuno-depressants that helped overcome the threat.
"The tolerance of the transplant is excellent," they said. The team has "confirmed the anatomical and functional success of this first partial face transplant."
"Progress, in terms of sensitivity as much as mobility, is being noted month after month," it said.
Dinoire, 39, was severely disfigured in May 2005 by her pet Labrador. She continues to have weekly medical consultations, but otherwise "leads a normal life," and expects to resume work soon, the statement said. She lives in Valenciennes in northern France.
Dinoire said she initially had trouble speaking, but now "I am understood wherever I go," according to an interview with British daily The Sun.
"It's been a very strange year, but I don't regret anything," she said. "I can feel just about everything as I did before. It may be someone else's face, but when I look in the mirror I see me."
The Sun also reported that Dinoire has a new dog, Max, to replace the one that attacked her and was later put to sleep.
Last month, an ethics panel approved a London hospital's plan to carry out what could be the world's first full-face transplant, though no candidates for the surgery have yet been selected. The Cleveland Clinic in the United States is also working on plans for full-face transplants.