Doctors from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have performed the first full penis and scrotum transplant. The recipient is a U.S. military veteran who was injured by an improvised explosive device during his time in Afghanistan.
The penis and scrotum, along with a partial abdominal wall, were from a deceased donor.
The recipient chose to remain anonymous but was quoted in the press release by Johns Hopkins. He described the injury that he suffered as "mind-boggling." The veteran also said that, thanks to the surgery he now feels more normal than before and that his confidence has returned thanks to the surgery.
A team of nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons performed the 14-hour surgery on March 26. They were able to attach the entire penis, scrotum without testicles, and part of the abdominal wall. The veteran will be discharged from the hospital this week.
Penile transplants are complicated procedures. They involve connecting arteries, veins, nerves, the skin, and the urethra to the recipient. Director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins W.P. Andrew Lee says that he hopes that this procedure is able to restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions.
The donor's family sent the recipient a message, thanking him for his military service. They described the donation as a "special gift" for the recipient. Three surgeons from Johns Hopkins had to travel to the donor's state to remove the organs from his body. During the procedure, there were 25 people in the room.
To minimize the risk of rejection, nine vertebrae were removed from the donor to get stem cells from his body.
This is the second penis transplant in the United States. A team of surgeons from Massachusetts General Hospital performed the first in 2016. The recipient was a man who lost his penis due to penile cancer. This procedure didn't involve transplanting the scrotum into the recipient. The first successful penis transplant in the world occurred in South Africa in 2015.
It is possible to be able to reconstruct a penis from the tissue of other parts of the body, but that would require a prosthesis implant for the recipient to have an erection. This also comes with a higher rate of infection.
Penis transplants cost about $50,000 to $75,000. They are considered to be experimental procedures and are not covered by insurance. Johns Hopkins covered the cost of this transplant.
A 2016 report says that from 2001 to 2013, 1,367 men suffered injuries to their genitals or urinary tract in Iraq and Afghanistan. The majority of these injuries came from bomb blasts.