Back in November a team of French doctors performed the world’s first face transplant (unless you count the movie Face/Off, that is). The patient received from a donor the area in red after being mauled by her own dog. While recently they had happily reported that her new face goes unnoticed in a crowd, it looks like the outlook has grown dimmer. Apparently, she has begun smoking again.
The news about her smoking came even as American surgeons said that they were growing more comfortable with the French doctors’ decision to try the operation and that they hoped to offer such transplants to more patients.
The woman suffered a tissue-rejection episode last month but is now doing well, her doctors said. However, they said she has resumed smoking, which besides being bad in general for health is especially a problem after surgery because it impairs circulation to tissues and could raise the risk of rejection.
Given the controversy surrounding the safety of the operation, to have the whole thing go south because of poor patient compliance would be somewhat ironic. It would also be ammunition for the detractors of what could be a major jump in reconstructive surgery.
The AP article sourced for this post covers discussions from the 6th International Symposium on Composite Tissue Allotransportation, where the face-transplant team made the first scientific presentation regarding their work. Other topics discussed include the relatively high success rate of hand transplants, despite some unfortunate morbidities (such as a Chinese patient who requested the hand be amputated after his hospital-supplied year of anti-rejection meds ran out).