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World's first skull and scalp transplant performed on cancer sufferer with huge hole in head

Health & Science
 Boysen was offered the transplant after cancer left him with a huge head wound

A cancer sufferer who was left with a huge open wound in his head has now been given a new skull and scalp in pioneering surgery.

American surgeons claim the operation on software developer Jim Boysen was the first of its kind ever performed.

The surgery was carried out last month at the Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas but has only now been revealed following its success.

The 55-year-old from Austin in Texas was also given a new kidney and pancreas along with the scalp and skull grafts on May 22.

He is expected to leave hospital later today after doctors were astonished by the speed of his recovery.

Mr Boysen praised the doctors who had carried out the surgery on him, saying: "This has been a long journey, and I am so grateful to all the doctors who performed my transplants.

"I'm amazed at how great I feel and am forever grateful that I have another chance to get back to doing the things I love and be with the people I love."

A source said: “Doctors cannot believe how well the operation went and how Jim has responded.

“Of course he will be closely monitored but for now thing could not have gone better.

“It will pave the way for many reconstructions."

Mr Boysen is the first person in the world to have a transplant from a human donor, as opposed to an artificial implant or a simple bone graft.

Last year, surgeons in Holland said they replaced a large part of a woman’s skull with a 3D printed plastic one.

More than 50 medical experts assisted with or supported the surgery including specialised reconstructive plastic surgeons, a neurosurgeon, a team of transplant surgeons, an anaesthesiologist, and nurses.

The 15-hour procedure, which had been four years in the making, was led by Professor Jesse Selber of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who first came up with the idea to transplant skull, scalp and organs at the same time.

He said: "While it was incredibly exciting to bring together two of the Texas Medical Center's leading institutions to collaborate and leverage their expertise for this first-ever transplant, the most meaningful result is what the successful surgery will mean for Jim.

"This was an ideal clinical situation that allowed us to transplant all these tissues from one patient, and Jim's patience, courage and enthusiasm for the idea were vital."

The operation came nine years after Mr Boysen was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of the smooth muscle, on his scalp.

He has been on drugs since 1992 to prevent organ rejection after he was given a new kidney and pancreas to treat the diabetes he has had since he was five.

But immune suppression drugs increase the risk of cancer, and he developed leiomyosarcoma.

As the wounding to his head grew, his new kidney and pancreas, began to fail.

Doctors at first could not reconstruct his head for fear of further damaging his failing organs, or replace his organs because of the wound to his head.

But Professor Selber decided he would combine both procedures, using organs, skull and scalp from one donor and giving him anti-rejection medication to support the triple transplant.

"This was a very complex surgery because we had to transplant the tissues utilizing microsurgery," said Michael Klebuc, the surgeon who led the Houston Methodist Hospital Plastic Surgery Team.

"Imagine connecting blood vessels 1/16 of an inch under a microscope with tiny stitches about half the diameter of a human hair being done with tools that one would use to make a fine Swiss watch." 

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