Rare operation repairs torn-off scalp

May 06, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- In a delicate and extremely rare operation, a team of doctors at the University of Southern California's University Hospital has repaired the scalp of woman after it was ripped off in an accident at work.

They say her prognosis is excellent.

Patsy Bogle, 30, was working at a Monrovia, Calif., packaging company Tuesday when her long, brown ponytail snagged in a machine.

She felt her head smash into the metal and, in an instant, her scalp was torn off in a single piece, from her eyelids to the nape of her neck, including two-thirds of her right ear.

Employing sutures thinner than human hair and working under a microscope in a five-hour procedure, the doctors stitched together arteries and veins to return circulation to the woman's scalp, keeping the tissue alive. Nine of the 12 major vessels that bring blood to the scalp were destroyed in the accident.

For doctors on the highly specialized microvascular surgical team, this kind of surgery is why they have spent entire careers in training. Over the past 12 years, only 18 so-called scalp replantations have been performed worldwide.

For Ms. Bogle, the meaning was much simpler: a chance to look the same as she always has. Even had the surgery failed, she would have survived. But she would have required extensive grafting operations, in which doctors likely would have taken muscle from her back to cover her exposed skull. She would have been permanently disfigured.

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