A South African man who made news in March for being the first to successfully receive a penis in a transplant is offering some follow-up news: he's going to be a dad.
The 21-year-old underwent penile transplant surgery in December 2014 after getting his member amputated three years ago due to a botched circumcision, a traditional practice that young men in South Africa undergo as they come of age. News that he and his girlfriend are expecting a baby proves that the surgery done at the Tygerberg Hospital by a team from the Stellenbosch University was a success because it confirms reproductive function for the transplant.
The news was shared by Professor Andre van der Merwe, a urologist from the Stellenbosch University, in a public lecture Thursday. He said that the man was not expected to be infertile in the first place since his problem was with his penis and not his testicles but news of the pregnancy was still good to hear considering the team of surgeons' initial goal was for the patient to regain full penile function within two years. To assess possible improvements that could be made in future operations, the surgeons are still monitoring the South African man.
To carry out the procedure, the surgeons utilized techniques developed for the world's facial transplant. It was difficult to find a donor but once one was found, the surgery used the same kind of microscopic surgical method for connecting small nerves and blood vessels.
"There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure ... as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision," said Van der Merwe.
Annually, as many as 250 penile amputations are done each year in South Africa because of complications with traditional circumcision. Many more are left disfigured as a result of using unsterilized equipment and practices by unskilled practitioners.
Aside from victims of failed circumcisions, penis transplants may also be useful for patients suffering from penile cancer who have lost their manhood or as a last resort for those living with erectile dysfunction.
Though this is the first successful penis transplant, it's not the first time that doctors tried to do this kind of procedure. Back in 2006, a penile transplant surgery was carried out in China. The surgery itself was successful but the patient's body rejected the donor organ.
Photo: Angie Garrett | Flickr