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Texas Man Just Got the World’s First Skull Transplant

A recovering cancer patient became the first person to receive the delicate surgery to repair a radiation hole in his head.
Photo par Pat Sullivan/AP

A 55-year-old American man has become the first recipient of a skull and scalp transplant — and an unintentional hair transplant at the same time, it was announced Thursday.

James Boysen, a software engineer from Austin, Texas, had the 15-hour procedure performed to repair an open wound on the top of his head from radiation therapy for cancer. Over his lifetime, Boysen has developed numerous health problems that have required many surgical procedures. This surgery, performed on May 22, was by far the most intricate.


A dozen doctors with a team of 40 other medical experts performed the microsurgery at Houston Methodist Hospital. Working under a powerful microscope, doctors connected blood vessels together with sutures about half the diameter of a human hair, Dr. Michael Klebuc, one of the team's leaders, told the Associated Press.

Doctors said they wouldn't have ordinarily performed the surgery, but considering Boysen was also going to receive a new pancreas and kidney at the same time, the medication he would have to take to prevent his body rejecting those organs would also help protect the scalp and skull from the same issue.

"For this patient, it means a new lease on life," said reconstructive plastic surgeon Jesse Selber, who co-led the surgery, the Guardian reported. "He had [a] series of cancers of the scalp and skull that were treated with various surgeries and radiation that left him with a large wound that was all the way down to his brain."

"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," said Boysen, who was discharged from the hospital Thursday.

Another bright spot — an unintended consequence of the surgery is that Boysen now has more hair than he did before the surgery, he said.