By Debbie Gregory.
Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, Dr. Richard J. Redett and Dr. Gerald Brandacher, surgeons at Johns Hopkins, hope that within the next year, a young soldier with a horrific injury from a bomb blast in Afghanistan will be the recipient of the first penis transplant.
The organ should develop urinary function, sensation and, eventually, the ability to have sex.
While missing limbs have become a well-known symbol of these wars, genital damage is a hidden wound, albeit not that rare. Modern warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq has put more troops on the streets with dismounted patrols and increased exposure to improvised explosive devices.
That has led to a new kind of trauma: genitourinary, known as GU trauma, which includes the genitals, bladder, urinary tract and kidney systems. From 2001 to 2013, 1,367 men in military service have suffered wounds to the genitals, according to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry. Nearly all were under 35 and wounded by IEDs.
Only two other penis transplants have been reported in medical journals: a failed one in China in 2006 and a successful one in South Africa last year.
Because only the penis will be transplanted, and not the testes, any sperm produced will be the patient’s own, not the sperm of the donor. Men who have lost testicles completely may still be able to have penis transplants, but they will not be able to have biological children.
Doctors who treat young men wounded in combat say that no matter how bad their other injuries are, the first thing the men ask about when they wake up from surgery is whether their genitals are intact.
Although surgeons can create a penis from tissue taken from other parts of a patient’s own body, erections are not possible without an implant, and that carries its own set of complications.
For now, the operation is being offered only to men injured in combat.