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Human Unicorn : Horn sprouts on 74-year-old Indian’s head after injury, removed surgically

Sumesh Rajan
Mumbai: 17 September 2019

A septuagenarian man in India started getting a horn-like growth on his head after an injury five years ago. Though he ignored it initially, he approached the doctors only when the growth became embarrassingly big and he became the focus of attention in his village.

74-year-old Shyam Lal Yadav, a farmer from Rahli village in Madhya Pradesh, India, after consulting many doctors got the ‘horn’ removed finally by doctors at Bhagyoday Tirth Hospital in Sagar city, about 204 kilometers away from his village.

“Around 5 years ago the patient had hurt his head after which a lump started growing. Initially, he ignored it as it did not cause any discomfort. Also, he got the growth cut by the local barber. But, when the lump hardened and started growing further, he approached the government-run Medical College Hospital at Sagar and also doctors at Nagpur in neighbouring Maharashtra state. Finding the cost of treatment beyond his reach there, he finally approached us around one and a half months ago,” said Surgeon Dr Vishal Gajbhiye of Bhagyoday Tirth Hospital, a private medical facility run by a charitable trust, at Sagar.

He further added, “In medical term, this type of rare growth is called sebaceous horn (devil’s horn) and is a historically perplexing phenomenon of unknown etiology. As the horn is composed of keratin, the same material found in fingernails, the horn can usually be removed with a sterile razor. However, the underlying condition will still need to be treated. The sebaceous horns are predominantly benign lesions however the possibility of malignant potential should always be kept in mind. Treatments vary, but they can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy." 

A CT scan was carried out of the patient’s head to check the depth of the roots of the horn so as to know whether the operation required the presence of a neurosurgeon.

“In Yadav’s case the growth was almost 10 centimeters long. After conducting a CT scan of the growth area, we conducted the surgery to remove it completely. Immediately after its removal, skin was grafted on the wound which has now healed completely. The patient was discharged ten days after the surgery, and is now doing well. On biopsy, the growth was proved to be benign, so there is no chance of re-growth,” said Dr Gajbhiye.

He said that this rare case would be sent to be published in the International Journal of Surgery since it was one of the rare conditions.  

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