Johns Hopkins Hospital stated on Monday that a military veteran who served and was injured in Afghanistan, is the worlds’ first recipient of a total penis and scrotum transplant.
The surgical procedure was performed last month over a 14-hour period and involved a team of eleven surgeons (nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons). The hospital disclosed that part of an abdominal wall, as well as the penis and scrotum, were provided from a deceased donor.
Officials stated that the patient has recovered from the surgery and they fully expect him to be released this week. The injured veteran’s branch of military service was not disclosed by the hospital.
“When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal… [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence… like finally I’m okay now,” said the patient, who asked not to be identified.
Advancements in medical technology and bodily protection have allowed soldiers to survive injuries at a significantly higher rate than in previous wars. However, scars from traumatic amputations are deep and soldiers are prone to develop mental health issues related to these events.
In cases involving multiple limb amputations or disfigurement, body image issues may create multiple social and employment barriers. Veterans injured in blasts from improvised explosive devices come home with debilitating hidden injuries — like the loss of their genitals, according to the hospital.
“We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” said W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Doctors are optimistic that the patient will have near-normal function in six months, a hospital spokeswoman stated.
Reproduction will not be possible, as the scrotum transplant did not include the donor’s testicles. According to Hopkins’ Dr. Damon Cooney, “We just felt there were too many unanswered ethical questions with that extra step.”
A wounded warrior, who received the country’s first bilateral arm transplant, was operated on by the same team who performed the genital transplant surgery.
There have been other successful penis transplants performed, two in South Africa, one in China, and one in Boston, but those transplants involved only the penis, not extensive surrounding tissue.