A five-year-old girl has been given a new “piggyback” head to help her replace skin and hair she lost in an horrific burns accident as a toddler.
Sidra Afzal, from Fleur-de-Lys, near Caerphilly, is being treated by doctors at Morriston Hospital, Swansea (UK). They implanted a special balloon under her scalp 10 months ago which has steadily grown with new skin and hair.
Now they plan to remove the gel-filled balloon and pull the new skin and hair follicles over Sidra’s burnt head. Sidra was two when she suffered 25% burns from cooking oil in an accident at her home, leaving her bald on one side of her head.
Doctors grafted skin from her thighs onto burns on her back and arm to lessen the scarring but her scalp remained red and swollen, and her hair did not grow back.
How tissue expansion works: no hair can grow on scar tissue after severe burn; tissue expander is gradually filled with saline solution by injection through tube under skin; expander is removed and stretched skin with hair covers the wound.
Mother Saba, 38, said: “She was left self-conscious about her bald patch. She always wears a hat when we go out and she kept asking me when she would get her hair back.”
Surgeons at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery in Morriston are carrying out the tissue expansion procedure. A 90-minute operation will be carried out this week and, if it is a success, Sidra will be able to return to school in September after spending a year having tutoring at home since the balloon was implanted. It now contains more than a litre of liquid and is the same size as her head.