First-ever successful skull and scalp transplant reported

A man whose cancer left him with severe damage to the top of the head had received what according to his doctors in Houston was  the first skull and scalp transplant, according to the MD Anderson Cancer Centre.

It added, James Boysen, a 55-year-old software developer from Austin, Texas, received the cranio-facial tissue transplant at the same time as a kidney and pancreas transplant at Houston Methodist Hospital on 22 May in surgeries that lasted nearly a day.

According to Jesse Selber, a reconstructive plastic surgeon who was the co-leader of the team that performed the intricate surgery, for the patient it meant a new lease on life.

He added, Boysen had a series of cancers of the scalp and skull that were treated with various surgeries and radiation left him with a large wound that was all the way down to his brain.

Boysen already had had kidney and pancreas transplants, and those organs were failing.

All the transplants were conducted at the same time using the same donor as it offered the best chance of preventing organ and tissue rejection.

Boysen said he was amazed how great he felt and he would be forever grateful that he had another chance to get back to doing the things he loved and be with the people he loved.

In a photo after the surgery, Boysen is seen with sutures in a ring around the top of his head, about 2.5 cm above his ears, where the transplanted skull and scalp were attached.

Dr Michael Klebuc, who led the plastic surgery team, told media that it was a very complex microvascular procedure.

"We transplanted missing skull bone in the overlying hair bearing scalp - not just that tissue but the nutrient blood vessels that come with it," he said.

"Boysen is showing some early sensation which is quite extraordinary. The other thing that's interesting is that you can actually see him perspire on the scalp now that it's been transplanted," he said.

"This kind of a triple transplantation has never been reported before and to our knowledge no-one has reported just the skull and the scalp as well," Klebuc said.

Boysen had a kidney-pancreas transplant in 1992 to treat diabetes that he had since he was 5-year old child and had been on drugs to prevent organ rejection.

The immune suppression drugs raised the risk of cancer, and he came down with a rare type - leiomyosarcoma.