Good news for medicine. A young American in a traffic accident, who at the same time got 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 was unveiled on Wednesday at New York University Hospital NYU, where the transplants were performed.
Third degree burn after falling asleep while driving
In the case of Joe DiMeo, a 22-year-old from New Jersey, did not give any complications at 11pm on August 12, and the patient, who attended a press conference on Wednesday, is in good health.
Victims of a turn after falling asleep at the wheel of his vehicle in July 2018, he was burned in the third degree on 80% of the surface of the body, including losing lips and eyelids.
During the approximately 20 surgeries performed thereafter, the surgeons had also amputated several phalanxes. But even after this series of procedures, “the only possibility that he would regain a good quality of life was to consider face and hand transplants,” explained Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, leader of the project.
According to analyzes from NYU Langone Hospital, the patient, with an immune system weakened by transfusions and already performed skin grafts, risked rejection by 94% of donors.
But with the help of a local association, Gift of Life, a compatible deceased donor has been identified.
Almost 100 people participated in the operation
The operation, which had been repeated a dozen times, required six different surgical teams and almost 100 people in total.
The surgeons cut out the donor’s face and removed several bony parts of the skull, cheekbone, nose and chin to ensure satisfactory alignment of Joe DiMeo’s face.
Released from the hospital after several months of convalescence, the young man can already perform many everyday movements with his hands. The operation “gives me another chance at life,” explained Joe DiMeo. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”
As for the face, “as soon as I saw it for the first time, I said to myself: it’s my face now,” explained the person who was testing for a pharmaceutical laboratory before his accident.
Although most face and hand transplant patients experience transplant rejection within three months of surgery, something Joe DiMeo did not do, “there is no guarantee that he will not refuse”.
In addition to immunosuppressive therapy, it is important that the patient is not shocked by the transplanted parts, said Professor Rodriguez, as a hematoma or wound can cause rejection.
Several dozen face and hand transplants have already been performed separately, but the two previously known simultaneous transplants have ended in failure. The first patient to receive a triple transplant, in Créteil in April 2009, died of complications two months later.