John Hopkins University will be conducting the first penis transplant in the United States in 2016. The first patients set to undergo the revolutionary surgery are disabled veterans who received severe injuries to their genitals while in combat overseas. A total of 1,367 men serving in combat from 2001 to 2013 lost part or all of their penises and testicles due to IEDs. Doctors refer to injuries to the penis and testicles as genitourinary injuries.
When veterans who have been injured in combat return back home, the public can see missing limbs, facial injuries, and other obvious injuries. Genitourinary injuries are hidden and virtually never spoken about in the press. Doctor W.P. Andrew Lee talks about why injuries to the penis need treatment just as much as other combat injuries.
“These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often. I think one would agree it is as devestating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed.”
The penis transplant process begins by doctors getting a donated penis. Doctors approach the family of recently deceased organ donors and ask if they can remove the dead patient’s penis for donation. During the surgery, doctors use a microscope to connect the blood vessels and nerves from the donor penis, connecting them to the patient. If all goes well, the patient will begin to have the same abilities of a normal penis.
Penis transplant surgery has only been tried twice, according to medical journals. In 2006, a man in China underwent the procedure, but it failed. Last year, a South African man had a successful penis transplant surgery. The patient in China asked his doctors to remove the donor penis after a few weeks. According to doctors at John Hopkins, the d0nor penis that the man in China received showed areas of dead skin and skin that was peeling off. This was due to not having enough blood flow to the donor penis. The South African man ended up having his penis cut off due to a circumcision that went wrong. Recently, this man became a father.
The surgery itself is still very experimental. The surgeons at John Hopkins have only been authorized to perform 60 of these procedures. Each patient that undergoes the penis transplant surgery will be studied in order to determine the viability of making this surgery a form of treatment that works. There are significant risks to the patient. Some of the risks include infection, internal or external bleeding, and side effects from the medication to ensure the body does not reject the donated penis.
Doctor Lee wants to make sure that the patients having the surgery understand that they may not have a fully functioning penis like they had before their injuries. Dr. Lee said, the patients may not “think they can regain it all.” Dr. Lee did offer hope when he said, “Some hope to father children, I think that is a realistic goal.”
Penis transplant surgery is looked down upon by some doctors. They say that a penis transplant is not needed to save a life. Doctor Richard J. Redett, from John Hopkins, says that the psychological impact of having an injury to the penis or genital area can be just as bad as losing a limb.
“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.”
Do you think penis transplant surgery is something that surgeons should be working on? What are your thoughts on the procedure?
[Image Via AP Photo/Pete Marovich]