The world’s first total transplant of a penis and scrotum was successfully carried out by a team of US doctors. The surgery process involves transplanting skin, bone, muscles, tendons and blood vessels and is called a vascularised composite allotransplantation, in medical terms.
The operation was completed by surgeons at Johns Hopkins University on a soldier who was injured by a bomb explosion in Afghanistan. The surgeons used a penis, scrotum, and abdominal wall that were transplanted from a deceased donor. Sexual functions should be regained through the operation, a result impossible to be achieved with penis reconstructions. The operation lasted 14 hours last March 26 with the help of a team of 11 surgeons.
The operation is the first ever surgery on a combat veteran injured on duty and is the first transplant with complete section of tissue including the scrotum and the nearby abdominal area. However, the testicles weren’t transplanted due to ethical reasons.
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Dr. WP Andrew Lee, head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University, shared during their telebriefing that some of the war injuries are hidden despite the extremity amputations that are visible and the resultant disability obvious. He also mentioned that the soldier’s wounds on his genitalia are the “unspoken injury of war”. Dr. Lee also added that in a “Intimacy After Injury” symposium co-sponsored by Johns Hopkins University that was held last 2014, they were able to learn the devastating impact of genitourinary injuries on wounded warriors’ identity, self-esteem and intimate relationships among their families, spouses, and caregivers.
“When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal like finally I’m okay now,” shared by one soldier, who wishes to remain anonymous, in a statement released by John Hopkins. The soldier was injured when he stepped on a hidden bomb back in Afghanistan.
Researchers were only working on post-traumatic cases, specifically injured soldiers, since their wounds generally deems traditional alternatives impossible.
The soldier who underwent the surgery is expected to fully recover in six to twelve months, says the experts from the surgical team. The clinical director of the genitourinary transplant programme, Dr. Rick Redett, said that he is under recovery but is handling it well. He is also scheduled to be discharged from the hospital this week.As part of the program, the university has approved sixty (60) genital transplant surgeries.
It is worth to note that in 2016, the very first penis transplant in the US happened at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. South African surgeons performed the world’s first successful penis transplant back in 2014.