There’s no doubt about it — there are few things more anxiety-inducing than the thought of going under the knife. And while there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have to get surgery at some point in your life, it probably won’t be as extreme as what you see in the news. Perhaps you’ve been keeping up with the human head transplant slated to take place later this year. It’s the first of its kind and incredibly risky, but surgeon Sergio Canavero is confident he can pull it off.
Whether the head transplant is successful or not, there have been seriously strange surgeries that have taken place over the years, many of which have been a major success. Sorry — your wisdom tooth extraction or hip replacement just isn’t that unique anymore. Here are some truly wacky procedures.
1. Preserving a hand by grafting it to a leg
You probably didn’t know it was possible, but one man was actually able to save his hand thanks to this weird surgery. A few years ago, a man in China had his hand severed from a spinning factory blade. The part of the arm that was severed was too damaged to immediately reattach the hand, so the surgeons grafted the hand to the man’s calf while the arm took some time to heal. Connecting the hand to blood vessels allowed them to keep the tissue alive.
Dr. Jess Ting, assistant professor of plastic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, told CNN, “It’s like the leg is just babysitting the amputated hand until the arm is ready for it.” The hand has since been reattached, and the man is even able to move his fingers a little bit.
2. Receiving a new heart — and keeping the old one, too
Heart transplants are nothing new — you probably even know someone who’s had one. But in the case of Tyson Smith, he actually had a new, healthy heart put into his body next to the old, failing one, UC San Diego reports. At the time of the surgery, Smith’s heart was in such disrepair that having a normal heart transplant would have caused the brand new organ to fail. So, surgeons decided to put the new heart on the right side of the old one. They both work together now to keep Smith alive.
So, will they ever take the failing heart out? With this type of procedure, you actually don’t really need to. Smith can safely live with an additional heart — something most of us probably can’t relate to.
3. Implants in the shape of devil horns
Back in 2006, a young boy by the name of George Ashman was born with a very large birthmark covering his forehead. While some birthmarks can be removed, Ashman’s was made up of abnormal blood vessels, making the removal very difficult, The Huffington Post explains. So, doctors had another plan. They implanted small, inflatable sacks on both sides of his forehead. These filled up with body fluids and stretched the skin out so the doctors could eventually remove the red birthmark. Unfortunately, this meant Ashman had devil horn-like implants for four months of his life. But now he’s doing just fine, with only a tiny scar from the surgery.
4. A transplanted uterus
For a woman who plans to have children someday, being born without a uterus can pose some pretty difficult obstacles. But 26-year-old Lindsey wasn’t about to let a bad genetic card stop her. She was the first person in the U.S. to receive a uterus from a deceased donor, Scientific American reports. Here’s the catch, though — Lindsey was ordered to stay on immunosuppression medications to ensure her body didn’t reject the organ for the rest of her life. For this reason, she planned on having children and then going through surgery once again to remove the uterus.
Unfortunately, Lindsey received some bad news after the transplant. The operation ultimately failed, and she had to have the uterus removed before she could have children.
5. Storing parts of a skull in an abdomen
No, this isn’t something out of a weird medical horror movie. This procedure, oddly enough, saved an ex-beauty queen’s skull by storing it in her abdomen. Here’s what happened, per Medical Daily: Jamie Hilton slipped and fell 12 feet onto a boulder while on a fishing trip. She was airlifted to the hospital, where doctors removed a quarter of her skull to allow for her brain to swell. So, where do you put a piece of skull to preserve it? In your abdomen, of course!
Essentially, keeping the bone in her abdomen gave it a sterile and nutrient-rich environment. For 42 days, Hilton lived with a large, hard mass in her stomach and a quarter of her skull missing. After her reattachment surgery, she wrote, “My skull is back in my head… really weird to say ;).” We’re glad she can add a winking smiley face to the end of that, because we’re not sure we’d have the same reaction.
6. Restoring eyesight using a tooth
Surgeons are restoring eyesight to blind people in the most unlikely of ways — by using one of their teeth. Sharron “Kay” Thornton had this surgery back in 2009, as the surface of her eyes were severely scarred from a rare disorder, leaving her legally blind. ABC News reports surgeons then removed a tooth and used dental tissue to make a new cornea for one eye. They also took a section of Thornton’s cheek to make new tissue that would surround the pupil. To support a prosthetic lens, the doctors actually used the tooth as a platform and drilled a hole through it.
Sound crazy? Well, it was crazy enough to work. Thornton could see 20/70 by the first day, which was enough to see her hands, the sky, and the clouds.
7. Baby removal — from a man’s body
This truly strange and fascinating medical case is one you’re unlikely to ever hear of happening again. Sanju Bhagat, a farmer living in India, had always had a large belly growing up. But back in 1999, he was rushed to the hospital because his massive midsection was causing him breathing troubles. Doctors went to operate, thinking he had a tumor. But they were in for a real surprise when they cut in and discovered Bhagat was actually carrying a half-formed baby, ABC News reports.
No, Bhagat was not somehow pregnant. The baby he was carrying was actually his twin brother. When Bhagat was born, his twin was trapped inside of his body, where it then survived essentially as a parasite. Luckily, the operation to remove the twin was a total success for Bhagat, and he now lives a normal life.