Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently announced that an Afghanistan vet would become the first U.S. recipient of a penis transplant. The procedure has never been conducted in the U.S., and Johns Hopkins surgeons are now allowed to perform 60 transplants.
The medical center said that the wounded soldier, whose pelvic region was severely damaged by a homemade bomb in Afghanistan, would become the first U.S. recipient of a penis transplant within a year.
The first penis transplant was performed in China nine years ago, but the surgery was a complete failure. A second transplant was reported by a South African team as a complete success last year.
Surgeons explained that the penis would be taken from a dead donor and attached to a live recipient. They hope that the organ would be accepted by the recipient’s body within six months, and gain full urinary function and even allow the patient to have sex.
According to a Defense Department report, about 1,300 men in the U.S. military had injuries at their genitals during combat operations in the Middle East. Most of them where young men, who were wounded by homemade explosive devices.
The public is aware that wars are often associated with missing limbs, but little is known about the hidden wounds of soldiers’ pelvic regions because of social stigma and shame. Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, head of the Johns Hopkins’s reconstructive surgery department, explained that such wounds are ‘devastating’ to soldiers in their 20s.
Yet, penis transplants involve some risks. The recipient’s body may reject the new organ, or the medicines that trick the body into accepting the transplanted limb can cause cancer. Moreover, the recipient’s psyche may reject the new limb, knowing that it comes from a dead person.
For instance, the recipient of the Chinese transplant urged doctors to remove the new limb because of the “psychological rejection.” Images of that transplant show that the transplanted penis had some areas with dead, peeling skin because of problems with the blood flow.
Dr. Lee added that penis transplants won’t make recipients as good as new. Transplanted penises might help recipients that did not lost their testes become dads. But those that lost their testes can no longer produce sperm, so having children is impossible for them.
Surgeons explained that penis transplant recipients with fully functional testes would be the biological fathers of the offspring because the sperm belongs to them, not to the dead donor.
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