A unidentified young man in South Africa is expected to be a very proud papa soon. The 21-year-old father-to-be experienced infection to such great degree following a tribal initiation circumcision that his penis had to be amputated. Six months ago, he underwent the world’s first successful penis transplant and now has fathered a child.
Dr. Andre Van der Merwe led a team of surgeons from the Stellenbosch University and the Tygerberg Hospital through a nine-hour surgery last December to attach a donated penis to the man, who had roughly one centimeter of his original penis intact. Van der Merwe expected full recovery to take as long as 2 years but the pregnancy of the patient’s girlfriend confirms success much earlier than expected. The girlfriend is said to be in her fourth month of pregnancy.
The patient was 18 at the time of the ritual circumcision and was sexually active. Circumcision as it is practiced around the world is generally considered safe but in tribal settings such as that where the patient was circumcised are not sanitary and infection is an outcome said to be rather common. Dozens of young men each year have penis amputations as a result and many others suffer fatal infections.
Van der Merwe described the successful transplant as bringing a man back to life: “You may say it doesn’t save their life, but many of these young men when they have penile amputations are ostracized, stigmatized, and take their own life.” As news of the transplant’s success has spread, so has interest among young men in similar circumstances. Van der Merwe says there aren’t enough penis donations being made at this time to meet demand.
Furthermore, “There was nothing preventing him from having children because his sperm wasn’t affected,” said Van der Merwe. The penis had become infected beyond repair but the patient’s testicles were unaffected and healthy.
Van der Merwe described the surgery as more difficult than a kidney transplant because blood vessels in the penis are much smaller than those in the kidney. The surgical team borrowed techniques from successful face transplants to connect the tiniest blood vessels and nerves.
The young man can now urinate standing up once again and can maintain an erection, achieve orgasm, and ejaculate but the organ lacks full sensation at this time. The patient is still being followed closely by the medical team, which has not yet published a paper describing the surgery and its outcome.
Once thorough review of the surgery has been reviewed, the South African surgical team expects to perform additional transplants. While local culture makes the nation a prime location for penis transplants, the procedure could become highly desirable around the world to repair damage from illness and injury of all