The recipient of the world’s first partial face transplant was thriving medically and psychologically a week after her groundbreaking surgery, the Associated Press repoted.
The woman received a new nose, chin and lips, after her face was partially disfigured by a dog. She appeared relatively normal after the operation and doctors were pleased with her mental state, Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard said in a telephone interview. Doctors had been worried about the potentially negative psychological effects of receiving part of someone else’s face.
"She is perfect," Dubernard said. "Psychologically, she is doing very well."
The 38-year-old will remain hospitalized in Lyon for four to six weeks while doctors monitor her recovery. She must take drugs to suppress her immune system to prevent her body from rejecting the donated facial parts, which Dubernard has said carry "a slightly more elevated risk of cancer."
The woman, who underwent a 15-hour surgery, has not been identified by name.
Her pet Labrador mauled her in May, leaving her with severe facial injuries that her doctors said made it difficult for her to speak and eat. The dog was put down.
Neighbors said the woman could be seen walking outside wearing a surgical mask to hide her face.
The weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche quoted one of the woman’s surgeons as saying she "had no more face" before the procedure. "She only had her eyes, and when she saw her daughters she cried," Sylvie Testelin told the paper.
The partial face was donated by the family of a woman who was declared brain dead. Her identity has also not been made public.
Critics of the transplant, say doctors rushed ahead with a radical, untested procedure, without trying classic reconstructive surgery first.
"This is pure experimentation," Emmanuel Hirsch, a medical ethics professor, told Le Journal du Dimanche. He said he felt surgeons rushed into the operation when "all the guarantees had not been given."
Surgeons have said the necessary precautions were taken.
"We explained everything to her, the benefits and the risks," Testelin told the paper.
Dubernard led teams that performed a hand transplant in 1998 and the world’s first double forearm transplant in January 2000.
The hand transplant recipient later had it amputated. Doctors said the man had become "mentally detached" from his new hand and failed to take the required drugs. His body rejected the limb.