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World’s First Face Transplant Recipient Isabelle Dinoire Dies at 49

Isabelle Dinoire
Isabelle Dinoire poses for a portrait on Nov. 21, 2006, in Amiens, France. The portrait was taken one year after the surgical operation in which she received the world's first partial face transplant.

Isabelle Dinoire, the world’s first face transplant recipient, has died at the age of 49, 11 years after her history-making surgery, the Associated Press reports.

Dinoire died on April 22, 2016, following a long illness, but the announcement was postponed out of respect for her family. Amiens University Hospital in northern France explained the delay in a statement Tuesday, September 6.

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“In accordance with the will of her relatives, no obituary was published in the press in order to protect their legitimate privacy at that painful time,” the statement read.

No other information was provided. It is unclear whether Dinoire’s illness was related to her transplant.

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Dinoire had to undergo a face transplant after her pet dog mauled her while she was passed out from an overdose of sleeping pills. She had a 15-hour operation in 2005 in Amiens to replace her nose, chin and lips. Doctors Bernard Devauchelle and Jean-Michel Dubernard used the body parts of a brain-dead woman.

Isabelle Dinoire a few months after the surgery was performed.

Dinoire was warned about the risks ahead of time, according to the AP. The medication she later took so that her body wouldn’t reject her face often caused health issues. “The results were very good in the medium term, but the long-term results were not so good,” Dr. Jean-Paul Meningaud, head of reconstructive surgery at Henri Mondor Hospital, said. During another surgery in January, doctors discovered that she had a malignant tumor.

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“Facial transplants remain extremely complex surgery with high risk,” according to the Amiens statement Tuesday. “It’s important to remember that face transplants are still in the evaluation stage. They … cannot be considered a routine activity.”

Per the AP, 36 face transplants have been conducted since 2005. Six patients have died from complications.

Dinoire is survived by two teenage daughters.

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