A team of healthcare professionals in Texas have performed the first skull and scalp transplant on a cancer patient after radiation treatments severely damaged the top of his head.
Jim Boysen, a software developer from Austin, Texas received the world's first craniofacial tissue transplant at the Houston Methodist Hospital on May 22. He simultaneously had life-saving kidney and pancreas transplant in surgeries that took almost a day.
Doctors said that radiation treatments for his cancer have left the 55-year-old patient with an open wound on the head that would not heal.
Boysen received kidney and pancreases transplant over two decades ago to treat diabetes. He was placed on drugs that prevent organ rejection but these raised his likelihood for cancer.
He developed leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affected the muscles under his scalp. He received radiation therapy but the immune suppression drugs hampered his body's healing capabilities.
Boysen's transplanted organs then started to fail but doctors decided not to operate him while his wound was open. Reconstructive plastic surgeon Jesse Selber fortunately thought of the idea of transplanting him with a partial skull and scalp.
The May 22 operation involved doctors performing the pancreas and kidney transplants after the head transplant. The doctors also used the same donor as this provided the best odds of preventing tissue and organ rejection.
"This was a very amazing and exciting moment was during the operation when we removed little clamps and let the blood start to flow into the tissue for the very first time," said Michael Klebuc, from Houston Methodist Hospital. "Because you saw something that was gray and lifeless come back to life in front of your eyes and turn into something pink healthy and vibrant and that was really miraculous and exciting."
It actually took two years to coordinate the transplant and plan for the surgery but the long wait appeared to be worthwhile. Boysen said that the medical team did an excellent job and that he is still somehow in awe that in only two weeks, he is already up and walking.
Boysen was released from the hospital on Thursday and will stay at a residence used by people recovering from transplant surgery in the next few weeks.
Doctors in Netherlands conducted a 3D printed plastic skull replacement on a female patient last year but Boysen's hair and skull transplant is believed to be the first that used human donor.