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Texas Doctors Perform First Skull-Scalp Transplant

Jim Boysen received the first partial skull and scalp transplant.

Texas doctors say they have done the world's first partial skull and scalp transplant to help a man with a large head wound from cancer treatment.

MD Anderson Cancer Center and Houston Methodist Hospital doctors announced Thursday that they did the operation on May 22.

The recipient is Jim Boysen, a 55-year-old software developer from Austin. Radiation treatments for a rare cancer left him with an open wound in his head that would not heal. Along with the scalp and skull, he received a new pancreas and kidney to treat lifelong diabetes.

Boysen expected to leave the hospital Thursday.

KUHF, the Houston public radio station, reports:

The new scalp is stitched down in a rough circle over the top half of Jim Boysen’s head. The hair on it is growing. During a press conference Thursday at Houston Methodist, Boysen, 55, said that his original scalp had been going bald for years. “I’ll have to go and determine what hair gel to use now,” he joked. Boysen, a software developer from Austin, has had serious health problems his whole life. He’s had Type 1 diabetes since he was a child, and that disease led to a pancreas and kidney transplant in 1992.   The immunosuppressant drugs he had to take after that transplant may have led to the development of leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of the smooth muscle, on his scalp. (Transplant recipients are more prone to cancer because of the immunosuppressant drugs.)


Video: Watch press conference highlights

MD Anderson reports: “When I first met Jim, I made the connection between him needing a new kidney and pancreas and the ongoing anti-rejection medication to support them, and receiving a full scalp and skull transplant at the same time that would be protected by those same medications,” said Dr. Jesse Selber, who came up with the idea of conducting the scalp and skull transplant at the same time as the kidney and pancreas transplant. “This was a unique situation that created the opportunity to perform this complex transplant.”

Selber worked with four MD Anderson plastic surgeons and the transplant and reconstructive surgery teams from Houston Methodist Hospital. 

Photo: KUHF/Houston