Texas Makes History With Remarkable Transplant

Jim Boysen given skull, scalp grafts to treat cancer wound
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2015 6:30 AM CDT
Texas Makes History With Skull, Scalp Transplant
In this photo taken on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, transplant patient Jim Boysen sits in his hospital bed at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston.   (Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Doctors at Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center and Houston Methodist Hospital have made history with the first partial skull and scalp transplant from a human donor. Jim Boysen, 55, of Austin underwent a kidney-pancreas transplant in 1992 and had been taking immune suppression drugs to prevent organ rejection since. The drugs, however, increased his risk of cancer and in 2006 he was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, the BBC reports, which attacked muscles under his scalp—the ones "that make your hair stand on end when something gives you the creeps," adds the AP. Radiation treatment left Boysen with "a wound that was basically all the way through his skull to his brain," reconstructive plastic surgeon Jesse Selber says, and the immune suppression drugs kept his body from healing it. Then, suddenly, Boysen's kidney and pancreas began to fail—and the serious wound prevented doctors from carrying out a new transplant.

After 18 months, a single donor was found; all Boysen's transplants were done in a single 15-hour operation on May 22. More than 50 doctors and health workers gave Boysen a 10-by-10-inch cap-shaped skull graft and a 15-inch-wide scalp graft, which reaches almost from ear to ear. The operation marked another first: the first composite tissue transplant performed alongside a solid organ transplant, KHOU reports. Boysen already has feeling in the scalp, which "shocked" a doctor during a test, and his new scalp has been sweating when hot. "I'm amazed at how great I feel," says Boysen, who was to leave the hospital yesterday. The donated skin is a remarkable color match to his own, to boot. "It's kind of shocking, really, how good they got it. I will have way more hair than when I was 21." (A woman just met the man who wears her brother's face.)

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