DEC 17, 2015 10:30 AM PST

Hopkins Doctors Prep for First Penis Transplant in US

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
The year 2015 has been a big year for transplants surgery and it will end with an even bigger splash. Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University have the permission to perform 60 penis transplants in the coming upcoming months. This type of genital transplant is a first for the United States.
 
From left, Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, Dr. Richard J. Redett and Dr. Gerald Brandacher at Johns Hopkins Hospital who hope to perform the first penis transplant in the United States in 2016.

The surgery is aimed at improving the quality of life for wounded soldiers who suffered genitourinary injuries caused by explosive devices. From 2001 to 2013, the Department of Defense Trauma Registry recorded over 1,300 military men suffering from genital wounds. While these wounds aren’t part of the usual public discussion, it should be because the physical and psychological damages of such traumas are incomprehensible.

To be missing the penis and parts of the scrotum is devastating. That part of the body is so strongly associated with your sense of self and identity as a male. These guys have given everything they have. – Dr. Richard J. Redett, director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins.

The transplant operation is estimated to take about 12 hours, where surgeons will connect the nerves, veins, and arteries from the donor penis to the recipient body. Once the donor penis organ is transplanted, doctors expect it to function as normal after a few months of recovery. In addition, doctors expect the transplanted organ will also provide normal sensations and eventually function in sex. For a man whose testes are intact, the penis transplant could help him father a child who will be biologically his.
 
As with any major organ transplant operations, there are risks and complications, including bleeding, infection, and possible cancer from anti-rejection medications. And because the penis is such an intimate organ, there could be a significant psychological hurdle that these men will have to overcome. To maximize the chances of transplant success, doctors will perform rigorous screenings to identify appropriate candidates for the procedure.
 
Only two penis transplants have been performed in the world. The first was done in China in 2006, where weeks after the successful operation, the recipient suffered “psychological rejection” and had to undergo a reversal operation. The second case was in South Africa in 2014 with much more success, as the patient recently became a father.
 
Though not “life-saving” the penis transplant is considered “life-enhancing” as this procedure could dramatically improve the quality of life for these wounded men.
 
“I don’t care who you are — military, civilian, anything — you have an injury like this, it’s more than just a physical injury,” said Sergeant First Class Aaron Causey, who lost both legs, one testicle and part of the other from an explosive device while in Afghanistan with the Army in 2011.
 
The penis transplant is estimated to cost between $200,000 - 400,000. But for these wounded troops, the ability to reconnect with their sense of manhood and identity is priceless.
 
Source: The NY Times
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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