A French surgeon dies after face and hand transplants


A pioneering French surgeon who undertook the first successful hand and face transplants in the world has died at the age of 80, a friend told AFP on Sunday.

Jean-Michel Dubernard, who became one of France’s most famous medical doctors during his career working in southeast Lyon, collapsed at Istanbul airport on Saturday night while traveling with his family. , said the friend, asking that he not be named.

Dubernard led the world’s first hand transplant in September 1998 to a New Zealand man, creating a sensation in the medical world that gave him worldwide recognition.

At the head of an international team of specialists, Dubernard and his fellow surgeons joined the patient’s arteries, veins, nerves, tendons, muscles and skin after fixing the two forearm bones during a 13-hour intervention.

He followed this feat with the first double-handed, forearm transplant two years later to a Frenchman who had exploded a homemade rocket when it exploded.

In November 2005, Dubernard reached his peak of fame with the first partial face transplant, which saw him implanted in the nose, lips and chin of a brain-dead donor to French divorcee Isabelle Dinoire. , who had been assaulted by her dog.

Dinoire appeared at a notable press conference three months later, with the full gaze of the global media, with thick make-up to hide the scars, but with a restored face.

“We want to launch these new techniques to give hope to other people around the world,” said Dubernard, who was then 64 years old.

The first full-face transplant was performed by a Spanish team in March 2010.


Dubernard, a rugby fan and father of three, was known for his remarkable work ethic and passion for his profession.

He attributed his decision to become a doctor to an episode of appendicitis as a child and his interest in transplants when he learned of the first successful organ graft — a kidney — in the United States in 1954.

“My only motivation is to advance our understanding of medicine. I do it for my patients,” he told Le Monde in 2005.

He also wrote extensively in medical journals about his experience, as well as the challenges of transplantation for recipients, both physical and psychological.

“The psychological consequences of hand and face allografts (transplants) show that it is not so easy to use and permanently see a dead person’s hands nor is it easy to look in the mirror and see a person’s face. dead “, he wrote in an article for European Urology in 2006.

His high profile and methods also meant that his patients and their work were subjected to intense scrutiny and, from time to time, criticism.

The National Order of Physicians condemned the publication of images of Dinoire after the transplant of his face and accused the medical team led by Dubernard and his surgeon Bernard Devauchelle of seeking attention.

“Premature and uncontrolled communication puts all the focus on the technical feat, at the expense of proper respect for the patient and the donor, for their generosity and that of their family,” a statement said.

‘A dream’

Her first-hand transplant also attracted unwanted publicity when it became known that the recipient, Clint Hallam, had stopped taking the powerful immunosuppressants needed to let her body reject the new hand.

Hallam, who had had an accident with a saw while in prison, begged to have his new hand amputated in 2000, saying he felt “mentally detached” from it, but Dubernard refused as it was still functional. .

The convicted fraud left his doctors furious over what they thought he was missing his chance, but managed to get his hand withdrawn in London in 2001.

Dinoire died in 2016, eleven years after a face transplant, after battling illness, mood swings and several cancer attacks related to the powerful drugs he needed to take daily to prevent his body from rejecting tissue, according to the reports.

The newspaper Le Figaro said Dinoire’s body had begun rejecting the transplant the year before his death and that he had “lost some of his lip use.”

Dubernard’s influence remains in Lyon, where the younger generations of surgeons continue to push the boundaries of science.

In January this year, an Icelander received the world’s first double-shoulder and arm transplant in the city, two decades after an accident that had cost him both limbs.

The operation was “his biggest dream,” the man’s wife said at a news conference.

The Frenchwoman who received the first facial transplant dies

© 2021 AFP

Citation: French surgeon dies after facial and hand transplants (2021, July 12) recovered on July 12, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-french-surgeon-world-first-transplants -dies.html

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