Surgeons in South Africa have successfully transplanted a penis for the first time ever after a marathon nine-hour operation.
In a groundbreaking piece of work, the surgeons – from Stellenbosch University (SU) and Tygerberg Hospital – made the life of a 21-year-old a whole lot better.
The surgery had originally been completed back in December but has only now been ruled a success after the unnamed patient regained “all function” in the new organ.
“South Africa remains at the forefront of medical progress,” said SU Prof Jimmy Volmink.
“This procedure is another excellent example of how medical research, technical know-how and patient-centred care can be combined in the quest to relieve human suffering. It shows what can be achieved through effective partnerships between academic institutions and government health services.”
The patient needed the transplant after having his own penis amputated three years ago following complications from a “traditional” circumcision, which apparently sees up to 250 South Africans annually requiring such amputations.
Prof André van der Merwe, head of SU’s division of urology, led the surgical team but gave most of the credit to the donor and his family.
“They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis,” said Van der Merwe, who has been stunned at the speed of the recovery.
The end result of the transplant was the restoration of all the patient’s urinary and reproductive functions.
The operation had been years in the planning, with studies beginning as far back as 2010, leading Van der Merwe and his colleagues towards techniques used and developed for the first ever facial transplant.
“We used the same type of microscopic surgery to connect small blood vessels and nerves, and the psychological evaluation of patients was also similar,” said Van der Merwe.
Nine more men will undergo surgery as part of this project, thanks to the success of Van der Merwe and his team.
Surgeons image via Shutterstock