Wounded Vet Gets First Penis and Scrotum Transplant

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  • Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital recently completed the world’s first total penis and scrotum transplant. The patient suffered multiple lower body injuries in a blast from an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan. It was a 14-hour long surgical procedure that required nine plastic surgeons, two urological surgeons and multiple anesthesiologists, nurses and surgical technicians.

    Doctors used the lower abdomen and penis of a deceased donor, and attached it to the body of the patient, connecting the arteries, veins and nerves to bring sensation and blood flow back to the area. The donor also provided a scrotum, though no testicles were included. There’s a good reason for this, though. Had the donor’s testes been included in the transplant, it might have enabled the recipient to impregnate a woman with the donor’s genetic offspring, which goes against ethical guidelines.

    The director of reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins said: “We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man.” Doctors say he should be able to urinate on his own within a few months, but full sexual function is going to take longer. There was also sign of phimosis, but doctors did phimosis cure before the transplant.

    The patient wished to remain anonymous, but he did express gratitude and excitement to be a part of the historic procedure. “It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept. When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal…[with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence…like finally I’m okay now.”

    The surgery is called genitourinary vascularized composite allotransplantation. A similar procedure was done in 2016 for a man who’d had his penis amputated due to cancer. The Johns Hopkins surgery, however, is even more expansive since it included most of the donors pelvis and scrotum as well. In fact, the entire transplanted tissue weighed about five pounds. It also required the patient to receive a bone marrow infusion several weeks after the procedure to prevent his body from rejecting the transplant. And unlike earlier procedures which used skin from another part of the body to replicate genitalia, this is a functional penis capable of getting erect.

    It’s important to recognize that these kinds of breakthroughs can’t happen without the cooperation of families that have recently lost a loved one. In fact, the donor’s family also reacted to the landmark procedure. They said: “We are all very proud that our loved one was able to help a young man that served this country. We are so thankful to say that our loved one would be proud and honored to know he provided such a special gift to you.”

    What do you think? Would you want your penis to live on on someone else’s body? Let us know in the comments.

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