UK medical system is recording a first fit as teenage girl, Jessica Brett, with huge birthmark, undergoes pioneering ‘balloon treatment’ to grow new skin.
Surgeons put balloons under Jessica Brett’s scalp to stretch skin before removing mole covering half her head, amid fears it could be untreatable if it turned cancerous.
Brett grew new skin after medics inflated four balloons under her scalp to replace a huge birthmark in a UK medical first.
Nine-year odl Jessica, was born with a mole covering half her head and doctors warned her parents that it could be untreatable if it turned cancerous.
Medics did not want to leave Jessica with a bald patch by using skin from elsewhere, so decided to grow more on her scalp to use in two complex operations.
In a UK first, surgeons put balloons under her scalp in a “mohawk” and spent six months inflating them with more than a pint-and-a-half of saline to stretch her skin.
When enough excess skin had been created, the balloons were removed and the mole cut out. The new skin was then stretched over the gap, creating a normal scalp.
Jessica coped with her unusual “hairstyle” by drawing inspiration from her short-haired hero Jessie J and did not complain once throughout the ordeal.
Her mother Becky, 34, said: “She was really so brave – it just didn’t bother her. She looked like she had buns on her head, and people used to comment on how they liked her ‘hairstyle’.
“It was a long process, but Jessica showed us the strength with how brave she has been and her courage.
“She wore a hat, but then sometimes she would go out without it. Everyone is so proud of her. She just embraced what she has been through. She’s ever so brave.
“It’s nice now to think that it’s all over for her. She looks as perfect as she did before and it’s as if it never happened.”
Jessica, from Lincoln, was born with the birthmark – a pigmented melanocytic nevus – that was partially visible under her hair on the left hand side.
The condition affects just one per cent of the population and appears on the head or neck in just 15 per cent of cases.
The youngster was not fazed by the mark, but doctors said it should be removed as soon as she was old enough to avoid it becoming cancerous.
“If it turned cancerous they wouldn’t be able to remove it quickly enough because it’s such a large area and it takes such a long process,” said Becky, who runs a data cabling company with her 37-year-old husband James.
She faced shaving off all her hair thanks to her idol Jessie J and had the first three silicone balloons inserted in a line down the centre of her scalp in June 2013.
Khawaja Gulraiz Rauf, a plastic surgery specialist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, filled them with saline every two weeks using a syringe.
Three months later, when the “lumps” contained 1.4 pints, surgeons removed the skin with a mole on, and the balloons, and used her newly stretched scalp to cover it up.
But the skin was not quite big enough and she had to have her head shaved again and a final balloon inserted in October last year, with her parents inflating it at home.
The final ten per cent of the mole – along with the balloon on the side of her head – was removed in January, and now Jessica has a perfect head of growing hair.
“Although Jessica has scars, they are quickly fading and she is looking forward to growing her hair out again,” said Becky.
“She’s been amazing throughout this whole journey, taking it all in her stride with a huge smile on her face.”
It is believed the procedure has never been done on the scalp in the UK before, and only once before, in America.
Jessica held a coffee morning to raise money for an iPad for Mr Gulraiz Rauf filled with photos of her experience, so he can better explain the procedure to future patients.
Mr Rauf said: “The successful outcome of Jessica’s procedure is due to help of a wonderful team of anaesthetists, trainee surgeons, paediatric nurses, plastic surgery specialist nurses, play specialist and occupational therapists who help me make the surgical journey for the patients and their families smooth and enjoyable.
“Jessica and her parents were exemplary with way how they complied with all the instructions and kept smiling throughout this difficult time.”
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SOURCE: The Telegraph, UK