French surgeons have carried out the world's first face transplant, on a 38-year-old French woman whose lips and nose were ripped off in a dog attack, one of the team told AFP. Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard, the French surgeon who performed the first ever hand transplant in 1998, confirmed news reports that the operation had taken place over the weekend, without giving further details.
According to Thursday's issue of the French news magazine Le Point, a team of surgeons led by Dubernard and Professor Bernard Devauchelle carried out the operation on Sunday and Monday in the northern French town of Amiens.
In the high-risk operation, a triangle formed by the nose and mouth was grafted on to the patient, from the northern French town of Valenciennes, who was admitted to hospital in May, the weekly said.
The facial tissues, muscles, arteries and blood veins needed for the transplant were taken on Sunday from a donor in the northern city of Lille, who was in a brain-dead condition, according to Le Point.
The patient will have to take immunosuppressant drugs to help her body cope with the donated tissue, with the first days after the operation a key test of the transplant's success.
Computer modelling suggests that her new face will be a hybrid between her own and that of the donor.
According to the report, the French health authorities gave the go-ahead for the operation in August.
The transplant procedure could bring hope for thousands of people whose faces are disfigured by burns, trauma, disease or birth defects -- although ethical concerns have held back its development in many countries.
Until now, surgeons have used skin from the patient's back, buttocks or thighs to graft it onto their face, but the result is mask-like and subjects regain only very limited facial function, even after dozens of operations.
Dubernard, a surgeon at the Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyon and a French deputy, performed the world's first hand transplant in September 1998, followed by the first double hand and forearm transplant in January 2000.
Devauchelle is a oral-facial surgery specialist from the CHU university hospital in Amiens.