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South African doctors perform world’s first successful penis transplant


Mar 14 2015

The surgical team during operation

Photo of the transplant team during the operation. Courtesy Stellenbosch University

South African doctors perform world’s first successful penis transplant

Doctors from Stellenbosch University announced Friday that they had performed the world’s first successful penile transplant back in December.

The surgeons had expected the recovery of full penile function could take up to two years, but were happy to report the patient has already regained all urinary and reproductive function, just months after surgery.

It was the second operation of its type, but the first one to have a successful long term outcome.

Successful reattachments of a patients own amputated penis have been successfully carried out previously, but this is the first successful transplant of another man’s penis.

The nine-hour long surgery was conducted at Tygerberg Hospital and led by Prof André van der Merwe, head of SU’s Division of Urology.

The planning and preparation for such an operation began in 2010 when the surgical team began to adapt procedures used in the first 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. The procedure has to be sustainable and has to work in our environment at Tygerberg," Professor van der Merwe said.

Psychological evaluation in such a procedure is important, as it has been documented that some patients can psychologically reject living with the external body part of another person.

The team actively pursued an approach that could be undertaken in a “typical South African hospital theatre setting”.  Penile amputation is a relatively common problem in South Africa due to complications arising from traditional circumcision practices.  Although exact figures aren’t available, the university reports that experts estimate as many as 250 amputations occur per year across the country.