Successful triple transplant of the face and both hands in New York City

 Sylvie Claire \ February 3, 2021


A young road accident victim, who simultaneously received a new face and new hands during an operation in mid-August, is in good health and has regained the use of his hands, a first, the New York University Hospital NYU said Wednesday where the transplants were performed.


Several dozen face and hand transplants have already been performed separately, but the two known precedents of simultaneous transplantation have failed. The first patient to receive a triple transplant, in Créteil in April 2009, died of complications two months later.


In the case of Joe DiMeo, a 22-year-old man from New Jersey, the 11 p.m. operation performed on August 12 did not present any complications and the patient, who attended a press conference on Wednesday, is in good health.


Victim of a swerve after falling asleep at the wheel of his vehicle in July 2018, he suffered third-degree burns over 80% of his body's surface, including loss of lips and eyelids.


In the 20 or so operations that followed, the surgeons had also amputated several phalanges.


But even after this series of interventions, the only possibility for him to regain a good quality of life was to consider a face and hand transplant, explained Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, head of the project, at a virtual press conference.


According to analyses by NYU Langone Hospital, the patient, whose immune system has been weakened by previous transfusions and skin grafts, was at risk of rejection with 94% of donors.


But with the help of a local association, Gift of Life, a compatible deceased donor has been identified. The operation, which had been repeated a dozen times, required six different surgical teams and nearly 100 people in total.


Surgeons cut out the donor's face and removed several bony areas of the skull, cheekbones, nose and chin to ensure proper alignment on Joe DiMeo's face.


Having left the hospital after several months of convalescence, the young man can already carry out many everyday gestures with his hands.

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