Penis Transplants Planned for Wounded Soldiers
Within a year, a young soldier with a horrific injury from a bomb blast in Afghanistan will have an operation that has never been performed in the United States–a penis transplant.
The organ will come from a deceased donor, and surgeons from Johns Hopkins University say they expect it to start working in a matter of months, developing urinary function, sensation and, eventually, the ability to have sex.
The Department of Defense Trauma Registry reports that 1,367 men in military service have suffered wounds to the genitals in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nearly all were under 35. Some lost all or part of their penises or testicles — what doctors call genitourinary injuries.
Loss of limbs has been a symbol to the world of the savagery of wars for centuries, but genital damage is a hidden wound — and to many, a far worse one — cloaked in shame, stigma and embarrassment.
Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, said, “I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed.”
To date, only two penis transplants have been reported in medical journals: a failed one in China in 2006 and a successful one in South Africa last year. The surgery is considered experimental, and Johns Hopkins has given the doctors permission to perform 60 transplants.
The university plans to monitor the results and decide whether to make the operation a standard treatment. The risks, like those of any major transplant operation, include bleeding, infection and the possibility that the medicine needed to prevent transplant rejection will increase the odds of cancer.