South African hospital performs first successful penis transplant

South African penis transplant is a surgical milestone

Surgeons at South Africa's Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital announced Friday that they had performed the first successful penile transplant after a nine-hour operation in December.

The procedure took place at the Cape Town hospital on Dec. 11, and was led by the facility's chief of urology, Dr. André van der Merwe, the university said.

A 2006 transplant attempt by Chinese physicians failed when the patient's body rejected the organ. Surgeons have successfully reattached a person's penis  several times.

The patient, whose identity was not revealed for ethical reasons, has made a full recovery and regained all functions of the newly transplanted organ, the university said. His penis had been amputated after complications from a botched traditional circumcision.

"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 in a written statement.

The procedure was part of a pilot study to develop a penile transplant procedure for men who suffer injuries from traditional circumcision practices, and could be extended to those who have lost the organ due to cancer. Nine more patients are in line for a similar procedure, Van der Merwe said.

Experts estimate as many as 250 men have to have their penises amputated after complications from traditional circumcision, according to the university. 

"This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic," Van der Merwe said. "There are even reports of suicide among these young men."

The unnamed donor gave several organs to other recipients, including his heart, lungs, kindneys, liver and corneas, Van der Merwe said.

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