NY Doctors Perform First Double Hands And Face Transplant 

This Wednesday, doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center announced that after 23 long hours in surgery they had performed the first successful face and double hands transplant on 22-year-old Joe Dimeo.

Back in 2018, 20-year-old Joe Dimeo fell asleep at the wheel of his car on Route 22 in New Jersey, causing him to lose control, hit a curb and flip his vehicle over, completely engulfing it in flames. Luckily a bystander was able to pull Dimeo out of the car before it exploded, but the young adult still suffered third-degree burns over nearly 80% of his body. 

The damage was so severe that he was left without eyelids, ears, and parts of his fingers. The scarring from the burns limited his range of motion and partially covered his eyes making it difficult to see. It’s for these reasons that Dimeo was so motivated to work with his doctors in performing this historic surgery. 

Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez is the head of the team that completed the surgery, and told the media this Wednesday that Dimeo is “the most highly motivated patient [he’s] ever met.” The surgery actually occurred in August of last year, however, the team of doctors wanted to wait and ensure that Dimeo’s body wouldn’t reject the transplants before calling the surgery a complete success. 

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“There have been over a hundred hand transplants performed successfully, and close to 50 face transplants, so fundamentally there was no reason why they couldn’t occur together, successfully.”

There have only ever been two other attempts to complete a double hand and face transplant simultaneously worldwide but both were unfortunately unsuccessful. “We needed to avoid infection, we needed to have this operation occur as fast as possible, we had to be very selective with the donor, and we had to implement every state of the art technology that would ensure complete success of Joe’s operation, and that’s exactly what we did.”

“Joe is healthy, he’s young, he’s strong, he loves to exercise, he eats healthy, and he has that one special element which is going to be required for this operation, a high level of motivation and a tremendous sense of hope.”

The operation took 80 healthcare professionals spread across six surgical teams and two adjoining operating rooms to complete. One of the operating rooms was used to carefully retrieve the hands and facial tissue from the dying donor, which are then typically replaced with 3D prosthetics according to Rodriguez. 

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“We always begin the operation with a moment of silence to honor the donor family, to respect their great loss, to never forget the donations that have been made. In all these operations it’s important to recognize that someone must give up their life so that others can continue living,” Rodriguez said. 

In the other room Dimeo was being meticulously prepared to receive the transplants. The surgery itself is long, grueling, and dangerous, and if done incorrectly would have resulted in the end of Dimeo’s life as well. Rodriguez explained that for each hand they had to replace “21 tendons, three major nerves, five major vessels, and two major bones,” and that’s not even including the face. 

After 23 hours in surgery and 45 days in intensive care, followed by two months of impatient rehab, Dimeo learned to open his new eyelids, more his new hands, and smile for the first time in years. Dimeo also recently spoke with the press about wanting to share his story and tell people to never give up on life. 

“I want to share my story to give people hope in the world. I’d like to recognize the selflessness of my donor, and how none of this would be possible without his sacrifice. Thank you. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life. There’s no excuse to not be motivated, or not to do my therapy. My hands aren’t there yet. I have to keep practicing, it’s kind of like when you’re a baby, they’re just moving their hands all the time until they get that ability to do stuff. I’ve got new hands now, just like them. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. You never give up.”

Red Heart with Stethescope

Research Shows Lifestyle Changes and Medicine as Effective as Surgery for Heart Disease

According to a recent large study, stents and coronary artery bypass surgery are not more effective treatment options than intensive drug treatment and lifestyle changes that incorporate healthy habits, causing a new controversy in the medical field of cardiology. The subject of the best way to treat people with narrow coronary arteries has long been the subject of fierce discussion among doctors and researchers, with most doctors opting to implant stents into clogged arteries in order to treat people who have heart disease. Stents are tubes made out of wire mesh that force arteries open, allowing blood to flow more vigorously through the body. This type of surgery is very common, and it is even performed when patients have no symptoms or only experience pain after exerting themselves.

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The findings of the study were released on Saturday during the American Heart Association’s annual scientific conference, and the study was the largest and one of the most rigorous of its kind ever conducted. Though the study found that surgery is often lifesaving for people who had heart attacks, the procedure may be performed more often than is medically necessary, as less invasive options produce similar positive health outcomes in certain populations. Among these options are the use of drugs that lower cholesterol, which contributes to the buildup of plaque within the arteries, which in turn increases one’s risk of heart attack or stroke. Stents or bypass surgery, however, are more effective than drugs and lifestyle changes for frequent chest pain.

While the findings discourage the use of surgery in patients who are asymptomatic, they may also encourage the procedure in people who have frequent chest pain

The findings are likely to have an impact on the conversations doctors have with their patients about the best course of treatment for a wide range of heart problems. While lifestyle changes, combined with medicine, are the ideal treatment for people with heart disease who experience no or only minor symptoms, these changes can be difficult for patients to make and keep over time. Changing one’s diet, for instance, generally involves a significant shift in the way one thinks about food, and committing to an exercise routine can be especially challenging for people who are busy. Interventional cardiologists perform surgeries like stent procedures, whereas preventative cardiologists prescribe drugs and encourage lifestyle changes; these recent findings are likely to inspire disagreements between these two specializations.

While the findings discourage the use of surgery in patients who are asymptomatic, they may also encourage the procedure in people who have frequent chest pain, as implanting stents was shown to be effective both in reducing chest pain and lowering the risk of a cardiovascular event. The study also highlighted the importance of smoking cessation in reducing one’s risk for heart attacks and strokes, as quitting smoking is perhaps one of the most significant lifestyle changes a person can make to improve their health overall, especially as he or she ages. 

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While implanting stents is an effective treatment option in some cases, it is not totally effective; in the study, patients who had stents implanted suffered heart attacks at a rate of 5.3% whereas the group receiving medical therapy only underwent heart attacks at a rate of 3.4%. However, after four years had passed, the group with invasive procedures fared better than the other group, having heart attacks at a rate of 13.3% as opposed to 15.5%. While these findings need to be studied further, they may be the result of the fact that many people fail to maintain lifestyle changes over the course of several years. For treating chest pain, stents had a clear advantage over the other therapies, as they relieved chest pain in 50% of patients whereas medical and lifestyle therapy relieved chest pain in only 20% of patients. That being said, both options have been shown to be effective treatments for a number of heart problems, and thanks to modern medicine, people suffer from untreated heart issues at a lower rate than in the past.