WEDNESDAY, Nov. 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A U.S. veteran who received a total penis and scrotum transplant last year is faring better than anyone expected, his doctors say.
In March 2018, the soldier — who was severely wounded after stepping on a bomb in Afghanistan — underwent the world’s first total penis and scrotum transplant. A team of 11 surgeons at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore performed the 14-hour procedure.
The tissue, from a deceased donor, included a penis, scrotum (without testicles) and part of the abdominal wall.
About a month after the procedure, the recipient — who wishes to remain anonymous — said that he “finally felt more normal.”
Now, in the Nov. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, his surgical team reports on his progress.
“His return of function has actually exceeded our expectations,” said Dr. Richard Redett, a professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Hopkins.
About 18 months after the transplant, the patient was able to urinate without problems, have normal sensation in the penis, and have “near-normal” erections and the ability to achieve orgasm.
With the help of limb prostheses to replace his amputated legs, he is now living independently and in school full-time.
“He says he feels ‘whole’ again,” Redett said.
That’s not to say there are no concerns going forward. As with any transplant, Redett said, there will continue to be risks. Transplant patients need to stay on immune-suppressing medication to prevent the body from attacking the donor tissue — and that leaves them vulnerable to infections.
Because of those risks, there has long been debate about doing transplants that are not lifesaving — including hand, arm and face transplants for people who’ve suffered severe injuries.
But while those transplants are not a matter of life or death, they are “life-changing,” Redett said.
The veteran in this case has described the anguish he suffered after his injuries. Speaking last year to the New York Times, he said, “I felt like it banished me from a relationship. Like, that’s it, you’re done, you’re by yourself for the rest of your life. I struggled with even viewing myself as a man for a long time.”