On March 26, a team based at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, performed the first-ever successful total penis and scrotum transplant.
The patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a veteran who was injured in the genitals while serving in Afghanistan. It took a team of nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons 14 hours to complete the procedure. Doctors “transplanted from a deceased donor the entire penis, scrotum (without testicles) and partial abdominal wall,” Johns Hopkins reports in a press release. Other patients have undergone similar procedures, but this is the most extensive penis and scrotum transplant ever completed.
“We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says in a statement.
Experimental penile surgeries have so far only been given to men injured in the genital region during combat. The procedure carried out recently by doctors at Johns Hopkins is called allotransplantation. This means that tissue from one person — in this case, a dead body — is transplanted into another person’s body.
Although the surgery itself was successful, the after-effects are not without risk: The patient will have to take anti-rejection drugs so that his body does not react adversely to the new transplant. It’s unclear what drugs are involved in the protocol or how long the recipient must take them. But a prosthetic is involved in the procedure because this is the only way the patient will be able to get an erection.
All we know is that the patient seems very optimistic after receiving the procedure.
“It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept,” the recipient says in a statement. “When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal… [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence… like finally I’m okay now.”
Doctors are still in the early stages of working out the intricacies of penile transplants, but successful surgeries like this one will provide hope for future patients.