Facial transplants are rare. The procedure, which requires a very well trained team, is not easy to accomplish – and is relatively new: the first one was conducted in November 2005, and to date around the world, fewer than 40 such operations have taken place.
France was the first country to successfully carry out the procedure in November 2015 – and now it is time to make history again.
A Frenchman will become the first person in the world to undergo a facial transplant twice. That’s because the first, conducted in 2010, ended up being rejected by the body – in an operation that many doctors thought impossible to be performed.
The patient, who was not revealed and is about 40 years old, spent almost two months without a face after suffering the rejection of the first transplant. Since then, it has been kept alive through gadgets and in induced coma.
A statement from the French biomedical agency and the hospital health service said: “It is proven for the first time that ‘retransplantation’ is possible in the case of chronic rejection of a donor’s face”
It will take weeks for doctors to state that the second transplant has not been rejected – and they are hopeful, since that would mean the possibility of performing the procedure on other patients who suffered with the same rejection.
To date, six patients have died from the high-risk procedure – and calls for immunosuppressive drug medication for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted tissue. This medication ends up leaving patients vulnerable to infections, and eventually tumors. This is what happened to Isabelle Dinoire, the first person to receive the partial face transplant in 2005, who died of cancer at age 49 in 2016. It is believed that anti-rejection medicines have contributed to the onset of the disease.