A patient recovers speech after a laryngeal transplant, a first in France

This is a first in France. A woman has just received a laryngeal transplant. The procedure was carried out by a medical team in Lyon.

A surgeon prepares in an operating room at the Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon where the first French larynx transplant took place (illustrative image). AFP - JEFF PACHOUD

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It had been 23 years since the 49-year-old patient had uttered a word. For more than two decades, she had been breathing through a tracheostomy without being able to speak because of complications from intubation after cardiac arrest.

Karine underwent surgery at the beginning of September. First of all, a donor had to be found: this is not an easy task, because you need a larynx with anatomical characteristics that are perfectly compatible with the recipient in terms of sex, weight, height and blood type.

A few days after the transplant, which took place on September 2 and 3 in Lyon, she was able to say a few words. Since then, she has been following vocal cord, swallowing and breathing rehabilitation sessions with a speech therapist, in the hope of regaining the use of speech in the long term.

Her immunosuppressive treatment was strengthened following an onset of rejection, but she was able to return home to southern France on 26 October. She was therefore unable to participate in Monday's presentation of the procedure, 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 wrote, adding that she had the "courage" and "patience" to cope with the pain and the work of relearning.

An intervention lasting almost 27 hours

The procedure is also very delicate and complex because this organ is innervated by very small nerves and vascularized by very small arteries and veins that intersect.

The procedure carried out in Lyon lasted 27 hours in total: about ten hours for the removal and seventeen for the transplant. Twelve surgeons and about fifty hospital staff took part in this first, which remains a feat.

It is now necessary to wait a good year or even a year and a half for the patient to regain the motor skills of her new larynx during the time of nerve regrowth.


With AFP)

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