Surgeons from South Africa’s Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital recently announced they have completed the world’s first successful penile transplant. The surgery occurred over the course of nine hours and the transplant recipient regained all of his urinary and reproductive functions. "It’s a massive breakthrough. We’ve proved that it can be done — we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had," said Professor Frank Graewe, head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Science in a press release.
The patient in South Africa was a 21-year-old whose penis was amputated three years ago following severe complications from a traditional circumcision. The penis came from a donor. "The heroes in all of this for me are the donor, and his family. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis," said Professor André van der Merwe, head of SU’s Division of Urology who led the surgical team.
Planning for this procedure began in 2010. During this preparation, the surgical team decided that some aspects of the first facial transplant could also be applicable to this procedure as both involve a variety of tissues and require stronger treatment in order to prevent rejection of the transplant.
This is the second procedure of its kind attempted. The first occurred in 2006 at Guangzhou General Hospital in China. In this surgery, a donor penis was transplanted to a 44-year-old man who had lost his in an accident. The penis was later removed, however, reportedly for psychological reasons.
Current options for penile reconstruction include the use of the patient’s own arm tissue to create a penis, which can then be implanted with a prosthesis for sexual intercourse. This type of reconstruction does not allow the patient to conceive naturally. A successful transplant, such as the one in South Africa, should make natural conception possible.
The recipient of the first penile transplant has undergone further procedures in order to correct minor complications, such as the drainage of a blood clot. This transplant is part of a study with another nine penile transplants planned for the future.