June 29, 2017
First Penis Transplant: Wounded Veteran To Be First In United States To Have Penis Transplant Surgery At Johns Hopkins University, How Will It Work?

The first penis transplant in the United States is set to be done on an anonymous soldier that was injured in combat. Planning for the 12-hour surgery was completed in December. Surgeons at the university needed to find a person who would benefit from a penis transplant and they found a veteran who was wounded in an explosion. Surgeons are now looking at disabled veterans as the target demographic for conduction a penis transplant. The university has identified at least 60 veterans who would benefit from the procedure. Carisa Cooney, clinical research manager at the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, talks about some of the testing that needs to be done before surgery can take place.

"Psychiatric evaluations for patients can take up to a year. There's a significant loss with the initial injury that the patient has to overcome emotionally, so we make sure to have a psychiatrist, who is also an expert in psychosexual disorders, on the team."
In order to prepare for the transplant surgery, surgeons practiced on cadavers. Surgeons have confirmed that the donor penis will come from a cadaver and the cadaver's next of kin will need to approve the removal of the penis from the corpse. Assuming a donor penis is the same age and skin color can be found soon, the transplant surgery could commence in just a few weeks. During the procedure, the anonymous soldier will also have repairs done to his abdomen, groin, and thigh, which were all damaged during the explosion.

Penis transplant surgery has been attempted two times in history. The first attempt was in China in 2006 and was not successful. The second attempt at a penis transplant occurred in South Africa in 2014 and was completely successful. The 21-year-old South African male was able to use his new penis to impregnate his girlfriends. This was huge news in South Africa because the 21-year-old lost his penis during a botched circumcision. In that country, 250 have men ended up with botched circumcisions. With the successful penis transplant, it gives hope to other South African men who no longer have a functioning penis.

What Happens During Surgery

Once surgeons have permission from the family of the deceased donor, the penis is removed from the corpse and the patient is prepped for surgery. Doctors will then begin the 12-hour procedure that attaches the patient's nerves and blood vessels to the donor penis. Doctors believe that the patient could begin to see function within six months to a year, but Cooney comments that the patient needs to be made aware that there are no guarantees for full function.

"We can't guarantee the outcome or the extent of urinary function, erection and ability to have sexual intercourse or have children."
Doctor Richard Redett, the director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital goes into more detail about the penis transplant surgery.
"The first concern will be that the transplanted tissue has an adequate blood supply and is not immediately rejected. That is generally known within a few days to weeks. The next priority will be to regain function."
Doctor Redett states that the nerves will regrow at a rate of about one millimeter per day. The slow pace of nerve growth is what causes the patient to have to wait for up to a year before it can be determined what type of function the patient will have. One concern that patients have is if they will be able to have children. Doctor Redett says they can "if the patient's testes are still present."

What are your thoughts on the first penis transplant surgery in the United States?

[Image Via Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]