Warning: Graphic Images Below
Chris Stoyanov bravely submitted himself to groundbreaking surgery to remove a recurring tumour, which involved having his head blown up like a balloon for six months.
Surgeons used the extraordinary method to stretch Mr Stoyanov's skin over his scalp after some had been removed along with a tumour.
A special bag was inserted and gradually filled with fluid until it was the size of a grapefruit.
Amazingly, 30-year-old Mr Stoyanov, who lives in Worthing, West Sussex, had to live with the large growth on his head for as long as six months.
And he had to be extra careful – in case he accidentally burst it.
The builder admitted it wasn’t easy, especially when it came to going to sleep at night.
But the procedure, performed by plastic surgeon Niall Kirkpatrick, proved a huge success and the skin on the back of his head was stretched enough to cover his entire scalp.
Mr Stoyanov said: “It was very uncomfortable and I as it got bigger I had to be more and more careful that it didn’t burst. It was a difficult six months but I managed to take things very slowly and carefully and it’s proved a huge success.”
The procedure came after Mr Stoyanov had endured 17 years of operations.
He was 13 when a fatty cyst appeared on the crown of his head and despite numerous surgeries in Bulgaria, medics were unable to remove it for good.
Mr Stoyanov explained: “After a few years, it just grew back again. I went back and forth from hospital.
“Surgeons would keep removing the tumour and the skin around it. They had to use skin grafts from my legs to cover the patches and my hair never grew back so I spent nearly seven years in baseball caps.”
Mr Stoyanov finally gave up on treatment in Bulgaria and moved to the UK in 2009. Two years later he consulted his local GP who referred him to specialists in London.
Alarmingly, he was told that if the tumour was left to grow untreated it could eventually pierce his skull and prove life threatening.
Mr Stoyanov said: “I had never thought it could be so dangerous and it was quite a shock when I was told what could happen if I just left the tumour to grow. I knew something had to be done.”
Surgeons discovered that previous attempts had not removed all the tumour tissue, which is why it had been growing back.
In order to get rid of it all they had to take away as much as 23 cm of skin from Mr Stoyanov’s head – which was replaced with a skin graft from his thigh.
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It wasn’t an ideal solution – Mr Stoyanov was left with a huge bald patch and was told his hair would not grow back. But a year later, surgeon Niall Kirkpatrick came up with an innovative solution to his problem.
Mr Kirkpatrick said: “Tissue expansion is a well established technique in plastic surgery but it is vary rare to use it on such a large defect of the scalp.
“It was most important to restore all Chris’s missing hair to his previous hairline which effectively meant making half a head of hair make up a full head of hair.
“Placing the expander in the correct position and inflating it enough so that the scalp would move to the right position without bad scars or wasting any hair took careful planning.
“I know that it was a pretty tough six months for Chris but it is great to see his self confidence as restored as his hairline.”
The balloon was gradually filled with 950 ml of liquid through a tube inserted over Mr Stoyanov’s right ear.
He said: “I had to be really careful that I never hit my head so I certainly wasn’t allowed to work on any building sites because it was too risky.
“As the lump got bigger I tried to hide it with hats – which was a bit difficult because it was the middle of summer and it was boiling hot.”
After six months the skin was stretched from the back of Mr Stoyanov’s head and stapled in to place. His hair started to grow back after just over a month and today it’s hard to imagine Mr Stoyanov went through surgery.
Incredibly, the procedure means that he will NEVER go bald – because the hair that is growing comes from the back of his head, an area that isn’t affected by hair loss.
Mr Stoyanov said: “I had begun to think that I would be in and out of hospital forever and that I would have to buy an endless supply of baseball caps to hide my scalp from everyone.
“But this has really changed my life. It really is unbelievable and I’m so grateful.”