Face transplant patient is ‘already smiling’
LAS VEGAS (AP) – The world’s first face transplant patient is “already smiling” just months after her groundbreaking operation in November, a member of her surgical team said at a conference of plastic surgeons Tuesday.
“She is already smiling,” said Benoit Lengele, a Belgian plastic surgeon who is part of a team of 50 physicians caring for her. “It’s not perfectly symmetrical, but it’s improving a lot since the results we saw three months ago.”
For the first time, Lengele showed members of the medical community video taken three weeks ago of Isabelle Dinoire, a 38-year-old mother of two, speaking in French, and at one point, smiling and chuckling.
“You see the smile is quite natural,” Lengele told doctors at the 9th International Symposium of Facial Plastic Surgery.
In the video, Dinoire speaks about how she can feel her entire implant and how she is exercising to regain motor functions in her face.
A scar surrounding her nose and lips is barely visible and her partial smile is concentrated on the left side. She cannot yet fully close her lips.
Dinoire lost much of her face when she was mauled by her pet Labrador last May while knocked out from drugs she took to forget a stressful week. Her lipless gums and teeth were permanently exposed, and most of her nose was missing.
It took 15 hours for doctors to replace the hole in her face with a donor transplant that included a new nose, mouth and chin.
Dinoire told the French Le Journal du Di manche newspaper in a story published Sunday that she cannot thank the donor and her family enough.
“We must not forget that today, thanks to them, I have become visible again,” she said.
Lengele said the surgical team has five French patients that it is ready to accept, pending regulatory approvals which can take about four months.
But he said they will not accept new patients until they have observed Dinoire for at least one year.
She still smokes about one to five cigarettes a day, which Lengele blamed on pressure from the media.
“The British tabloids were very aggressive with her family and with the family of the donor,” he said. “The pressure was terrible for the patient.”
“She’s now diminishing (her smoking) because she’s doing fine, because she has recovered a normal life with her family,” he added.
The team which performed the surgery in Amiens, France on Nov. 27, 2005, is set to publish a paper describing the operation in the Lancet medical journal soon, followed by one in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the follow-up, he said.
Since a tissue rejection episode in late December, there have been no rejection problems and Dinoire’s medication is being reduced gradually, he said.
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