Woman who received world's first partial face transplant dies at 49

Frenchwoman Isabelle Dinoire passed away after a long illness

Isabelle Dinoire

In this 2006 file photo, Isabelle Dinoire addresses reporters during her first press conference after the transplant | PA Images

The world's first face transplant recipient has died, 11 years after the pioneering surgery.

Frenchwoman Isabelle Dinoire had reportedly suffered from two types of cancer following years of taking anti-rejection medication. She was 49. 

Doctors at Amiens University Hospital have only just confirmed that she died in April following a "long illness".

They said her death had initially been kept quiet to protect her family's privacy.

Ms Dinoire was left severely disfigured after being attacked by her pet Labrador in May 2005.

She received a graft including a new nose, chin and lips in a groundbreaking operation carried out by doctors Bernard Devauchelle and Jean-Michel Dubernard later that year.

French newspaper Le Figaro reported that Dinoire's body had started to reject the transplant last year, and that she had "lost part of the use of her lips".

The drugs she had to take to prevent rejection left her susceptible to cancer, the newspaper said.

Ms Dinoire had previously spoken about how the transplant had changed her life.

Just three months after the surgery, the mother of two appeared before TV cameras for a news conference.

She wore thick make-up to disguise her scars and spoke with a pronounced lisp, but said she was feeling positive about the future.

"Since my operation I have a face, like everyone... I will be able to resume a normal life," she told reporters.

Recalling the incident which led to the transplant, she said she had fainted after "taking medicines to forget" personal problems.

"When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette and I couldn't understand why it didn't stay between my lips," she said. "Then I saw the pool of blood and the dog next to me.

"I went to look in the mirror and was horrified."

The operation was led by Dubernard, a world-renowned surgeon at Edouard Herriot hospital in the eastern city of Lyon, and Devauchelle, a professor of facial surgery.

The operation set the stage for dozens of other transplants worldwide.