Penis Transplant: First Successful Procedure Performed In South Africa

The first successful penis transplant was performed by a medical team at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital in South Africa. The nine-hour operation was performed on December 11, 2014 in Bellville, Cape Town. The penis transplant was attempted one time before, but this recent surgery is the first time a “long-term result” was achieved.

The penis transplant was led by Stellenbosch University Professor Andre van der Merwe – the head or urology at the school. “South Africa remains at the forefront of medical progress,” Professor Jimmy Volmink, who is also the dean of Stellenbosch University Medicine and Health Sciences, said. “This procedure is another excellent example of how medical research, technical know-how and patient-centred care can be combined in the quest to relieve human suffering. It shows what can be achieved through effective partnerships between academic institutions and government health services.”

The identity of the penis transplant patient has been withheld. The man has reportedly made a complete recovery and has “regained all function in the newly transplanted organ.” Professor Vander Merwe said the penis transplant will allow the patient to have full reproductive functions as well as urinary functions. “Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery,” Van der Merwe said.

The penis plant procedure was part of a study focused on further developing the penis transplant procedure and the maintenance of long-term results. Profesor Van der Merwe also feels that there is a great need for penis transplant procedures in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. The loss of the penis due to circumcision complications is blamed for the many cases where young men “lose their penises” each year.

Three years ago the 21-year-old penis transplant was forced to have his penis amputated in order to save his life. One study about penis amputations in South Africa found that approximately 55 men in just the Eastern Cape had surgical penis amputations in 2014. Some estimates put the number of penis amputations in South Africa as high as 250 annually.

Finding a donor for the penis transplant surgery was a major obstacle, according to professor Van er Merwe.

“This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men. The heroes in all of this for me are the donor, and his family. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis.” says Van der Merwe.

“It’s a massive breakthrough. We’ve proved that it can be done – we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had,” says professor Graewe added. “It was a privilege to be part of this first successful penis transplant in the world.”

“Western Cape Government Health is very proud to be part of this ground-breaking scientific achievement,” Dr. Beth Engelbrecht, the organization head, said. “We are proud of the medical team, who also form part of our own staff compliment at Tygerberg Hospital. It is good to know that a young man’s life has been significantly changed with this very complex surgical feat. From experience we know that penile dysfunction and disfigurement has a major adverse psychological effect on people.”

Professor Van der Merwe was assisted during the penis transplant by professor Frank Graewe, head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at Stellenbosch University, professor Rafique Moosa, along with transplant coordinators, anaesthetists, nurses, a psychologist, an ethicist and various support staff.

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