A cancer patient from Texas recently underwent surgery to become the world's first recipient of a skull and scalp transplant. The patient received the transplant from a human donor to fix radiation damage to his skull as a result of cancer treatment.

The surgery was performed by physicians and surgeons at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. The procedure lasted around 15 hours and also involved transplantation of a kidney and pancreas.

The patient, Jim Boysen, 55, suffers from leiomyosarcoma, in addition to diabetes detected during childhood. His form of cancer resulted in a malignant tumor in the muscular tissue. In addition to the radiation damage to his skull and scalp, immunity-suppression medication used during cancer treatments prevented self-healing or repair of the damaged part of his skull. Therefore, the surgeons decided to perform the transplant.

The lead surgeon, Dr. Jesse Selber, described Boysen's condition as “a truly unique clinical situation that created the opportunity to perform this complex transplant.” Dr. Michael Klebuc, who led the plastic surgery team, described the operation as “complex,” involving a transplant conducted through microsurgery.

“Imagine connecting blood vessels 1/16 of an inch under a microscope with tiny stitches about half the diameter of a human hair being done with tools that one would use to make a fine Swiss watch,” Klebuc said.

Boysen, whose transplant was performed May 22, was discharged from the hospital two weeks later.