South African Surgeons Perform World’s First Penis Transplant

A team of South African surgeons has performed the world’s first successful penis transplant in a marathon nine-hour operation, Stellenbosch University, announced on Friday.

The operation, led by Prof André van der Merwe, head of the university’s Division of Urology, was performed in December 2014 at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town, the university said.

The university said it was the second time that the procedure had been attempted, but the first time that a successful long-term result was achieved.

The university said the unidentified 24-year-old patient had his penis amputated three years ago as a result of a botched circumcision.

Doctors say there are as many as 250 such amputations annually in South Africa. “This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men,” said Van der Merwe.

The lead surgeon explained that the transplanted penis “was harvested from a donor whose family consented.” The university said the patient has regained full function in the transplanted organ, including urinary and reproductive functions.

“Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery,” Van der Merwe said. He said the patient is “very happy and is not having any major side effects.”

“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, who assisted in the process.

Van der Merwe said some of the microscopic surgery techniques — such as connected small blood vessels and nerves — used were developed for the first facial transplant.

This procedure could eventually also be employed for men who have lost their penises from penile cancer or as a last-resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction due to medication side effects, the university said.

It added that nine more patients are scheduled to receive penile transplants.

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