World’s first successful penis transplant enables patient to get an erection again

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South African doctors have achieved what they call the world’s first successful penile transplant operation.

The patient, weeks after the operation is able to maintain an erection to have sex, as well as urinate functionally.

The nine-hour operation occurred on December 11, 2014, involving a team of doctors at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town and others from Tygerberg Hospital.

Penis transplant

Doctors from Stellenbosch University performing the world’s first successful penis transplant


The young man, whose identity “is being protected for ethical reasons,” has made a full recovery — a result which the surgeons did not expect to occur until about December 2016. The recovery includes, “restoration of all the patient’s urinary and reproductive functions,” according to a university press release Friday.

“It’s a massive breakthrough. We’ve proved that it can be done” said Professor Frank Graewe, head of the division of plastic reconstructive surgery at Stellenbosch University. “We can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had.”

The patient’s penis was amputated after complications arose from a traditional circumcision, which was performed during a coming of age ceremony. Such initiation practices are common in African nations, but have increasingly come under scrutiny for risk of complications.

Penis transplant harvested penis

Image shows shows the nerves in the donated penis and how they were joined to the man’s groin area.


As many as 250 men are estimated to lose their penises each year in a secret and brutal initiation ceremony conducted by the Xhosa tribe in South Africa. During the month of June, which marks the start of a new harvest, thousands of boys are sent naked into remote areas to survive with little more than a blanket and meagre rations.

The ritual is known as ukwaluka and has been practiced for generations. The ultimate test of the rite of passage is the process of ukwaluka – the cutting of the penis foreskin that is done by an incibi – a traditional surgeon – which symbolises the beginning of manhood. However, infections and other complications are coming causing the death of scores of teenagers. Each year, there are repeated calls for the ritual to be stopped.

Prof Van der Mewe said the success of the procedure meant it could eventually also be extended to men who have lost their penises from penile cancer or as a last-resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction due to the side effects from medication.

Doctors used techniques developed, in part, for the world’s first facial transplant. Dr. André van der Merwe, the head of the team of doctors said, “We used the same type of microscopic surgery to connect small blood vessels and nerves, and the psychological evaluation of patients was also similar.”

Penis transplant enables patient to have sex

This picture shows how the nerves of the donated penis were joined to the man’s genital region, and weeks after this operation, the patient was able to become sexually active.


Psychological factors are important for the success of any transplant operation.

Dr. John Robinson, professor of psychiatry and surgery at Howard University, told CNN, “The anxiety of waiting for a transplant creates a lot of anxiety and tension. Once you get the transplant, the anxiety of rejection keeps people pretty nervous.”

This isn’t the first penile transplant. Doctors in China performed an unsuccessful transplant in 2006. That patient rejected the transplant due to “a severe psychological problem,” and had it removed, though no medical rejection was found.

“Any type of therapy that returns men to normalcy is beneficial, but at the same time, we need to keep in mind the person as a whole,” including the personal and psychological aspects, says Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and member of the American Urological Association. “At the same time, it’ll be important to have a follow-up to ensure that we don’t have what happened in China.

In the United States, doctor-performed circumcisions result in fewer than 2 in 10,000 complications, including bleeding, infection, and injury to the penis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Complete statistics are not available on the numbers of nonmedical circumcisions in Eastern and Southern Africa, though reports from the World Health Organization show wide-ranging numbers: as low as 2% in parts of South Africa and up to 35% in Kenya.

The South African doctors celebrated the success of the procedure, but also recognize the donor who made it all possible. Van der Merwe said, “The heroes in all of this for me are 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.”

Source: via


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