Surgeons at the Buncke Clinic at California Pacific Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health network, have successfully reattached the forehead and scalp of a 22-year-old Stockton woman whose hair was caught in machinery at her workplace. This type of surgery is extremely rare, and has been successfully performed only a handful of times world-wide.
The woman was flown by helicopter to CPMC, where Buncke Clinic surgeons performed the seven hour surgery using special microsurgery techniques. Microsurgery is a surgical technique that allows the surgeon to repair small nerves and blood vessels with sutures thinner than human hair.
"By repairing six blood vessels with the microscope as an aid, we were able to successfully restore the blood supply and replant the completely amputated forehead and scalp," said Dr. Brian Parrett and Dr. Bauback Safa, lead surgeons on the procedure. "The patient's scalp hair began to grow back within days after the surgery and she was able to go home after just one week."
"I put my trust in their hands," said patient Sonya Dominguez. "Without them, I probably wouldn't be here."
The procedure performed is one of very few known surgeries of its kind. "Microsurgery offers hope to patients who, until recently, had few options," explains Gregory Buncke, MD, head of the Buncke Clinic and chief of plastic surgery at CPMC. "The difference it can make in a person's life is remarkable. If this type of surgery had not been available to this young woman, she would have had extensive and permanent disfigurement."
"Patients come to us from all over the world for microsurgery," says Buncke. "We reattach and reconstruct limbs and other body parts that have been crushed or blown up in accidents. In addition, every week we perform reconstructive surgeries for cancer patients, in particular those with breast cancer and head and neck cancers."
These surgeons continue to perfect their microsurgery techniques and are now able to successfully repair severely damaged areas that were previously untreatable.
Regardless of the specific type of microsurgery Buncke and his colleagues are performing, the technique requires highly specialized surgical skills, more than six years of training after medical school, and the availability of well-trained and experienced microsurgical nurses and anesthesiologists.
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