Surgeons in France who performed the world's first partial face transplant operation say their 38-year-old patient is doing well.

The doctors told a news conference the unnamed woman's first words after waking up were "thank you." They said she is doing well physically and psychologically after receiving a nose, chin and mouth donated by the family of a brain-dead patient.

They acknowledged continued risks of complications for the patient, who was disfigured in a dog attack. These include rejection and an increased risk of cancer because of the drugs used to prevent rejection.

The doctors acknowledged that facial transplant surgery has raised some ethical questions, but said the extent of the patient's injuries had made other treatment impossible.

They also rejected French news media reports that the dog attack came after the patient had passed out after taking pills in a suicide attempt.