In a UK medical first, a 9 year old schoolgirl from Lincoln, grew new skin after doctors inflated four balloons under her scalp to replace a huge birthmark.
Jessica Brett, was born with a mole covering half her head and doctors warned her parents that if untreated it could turn cancerous.
Medics were hesitant 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. Surgeons put balloons under her scalp in a “mohawk” and spent a total of 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.
“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 looks as perfect as she did before and it’s as if it never happened.” her mother Becky, 34, said.
Jessica was born with the birthmark, a pigmented melanocytic nevus, that was partially visible under her hair on the left side. The rare condition affects just 1% of the population and appears on the head or neck in 15 % of cases.
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.
Khawaja Gulraiz Rauf, a plastic surgery specialist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, filled them with saline every two weeks using a syringe and made the first three silicone balloons inserted in a line down the centre of her scalp.
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 10% 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.
Becky aid, “Although Jessica has scars, they are quickly fading and she is looking forward to growing her hair out again. 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 in America.
“The successful outcome of Jessica’s procedure is due to the help of a wonderful medical team of who help me make the surgical journey for the patients and their families smooth and enjoyable”, Mr Rauf said. “Jessica and her parents were exemplary with way how they complied with all the instructions and kept smiling throughout this difficult time.”