Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine surgeons said that penis transplants for wounded U.S. soldiers could become a reality in the next few months. The organs from deceased donors are expected to develop sensation, perform urinary tasks and even be used for sexual functions.
Based on the Department of Defense Trauma Registry data, there are 1,367 who suffered wounds on their genitals during the Afghanistan or Iraq wars from 2001 to 2013. The soldiers are mostly under 35 years old lost one or both their testicles, some even their penises, to improvised explosive devices or homemade bombs.
Lost limbs are common among soldiers and have become war symbols. However, for many, lost genitals remain a "hidden wound." Many soldiers also deal with the stigma, shame and embarrassment that stem from lost genitals.
"These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often," said Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, plastic and reconstructive surgery chairman from Johns Hopkins. Lee added that lost genitals is as "devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer."
To date, there are only two reported penis transplants in medical journals. China conducted one in 2006, but failed. In 2014, the first completed penis transplant was done in Africa. Although considered experimental, the success of the latter surgery gave the John Hopkins doctors the approval for 60 transplants.
Same with any major operations, penis transplant patients will be facing the dangers of infection, bleeding and increased cancer risk due to transplant medications.
Only the penis will be transplanted. The testes, where sperm are formed, will be the patient's. Should the patient have any offspring, genetically, the children are his own and not the deceased donor. For U.S. soldiers whose testes have been destroyed in the line of duty, they can still undergo the penis transplant, but won't be able to father any biological children.
Polytrauma social-work supervisor Scott Skiles from the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System said that young male patients would opt to lose an arm or both legs than lose their genitals. According to doctors, young soldiers post-battle, regardless of battle injuries, always ask if their genitals are unharmed upon waking from surgery.