This is a first in France. A woman has just received a larynx transplant. An intervention carried out by a medical team in Lyon.
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It had been 23 years since the 49-year-old patient had last spoken a word. For more than two decades, she had been breathing through a tracheotomy without being able to speak due to complications related to intubation after cardiac arrest.
Karine had surgery at the beginning of September. We first had to find a donor: this is no easy task, because we need a larynx with anatomical characteristics perfectly compatible with the recipient in terms of sex, weight, height and blood group.
A few days after the transplant, carried out on September 2 and 3 in Lyon, she was able to say a few words. She has since followed vocal cord, swallowing and breathing rehabilitation sessions with a speech therapist, in the hope of lastingly regaining the use of speech.
Her immunosuppressive treatment was reinforced following the onset of rejection, but she was able to return home to the south of France on October 26. She was therefore not able to participate in the presentation of the intervention on Monday, but explained in writing that she had volunteered ten years ago, “ to return to a normal life “. “ My daughters had never heard me speak », she writes, ensuring that she is armed with “ courage ” and of “ patience » to deal with pain and the work of relearning.
An intervention lasting almost 27 hours
The operation is also very delicate and very complex because this organ is innervated by very small nerves and vascularized by very small arteries and veins which intersect.
The intervention carried out in Lyon lasted a total of 27 hours: around ten hours for the collection and seventeen for the transplantation. Twelve surgeons and around fifty hospital staff participated in this first, which remains a feat.
We must now wait a good year or even a year and a half for the patient to regain the motor skills of her new larynx while nerve regrowth takes place.