Penis transplants have been scheduled for wounded U.S. veterans, and the first surgery of this kind is expected to take place in a few months, in Baltimore.
From 2001 until 2013, a total of 1,367 American soldiers have experienced genital injuries while being deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, which resulted in partial or total amputation of their penis or testicles.
The vast majority of victims were under the age of 35, and had been condemned to an existence filled with embarrassment, frustration and helplessness, after having been wounded by artisanal explosives.
New, medical practitioners at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have been given the green light in order to perform up to 60 penis transplants on such military men, so as to provide them with a new lease on life.
As stated by Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and John Hopkins Medicine, such surgeries seldom take place, and they are in fact completely unprecedented in the United States.
However, they were considered essential for wounded veterans, some as young as 20, whose entire genital area had been shattered in combat.
Medical procedures of this kind have previously occurred in South Africa, in order to assist those who had been severely mutilated during traditional initiation rites.
Rituals such as Ulwaluko are common among the Xhosa people, and involve circumcision, which is usually carried out by inexperienced medical practitioners, without respecting adequate hygiene requirements.
As a result, Ukwaku has so far resulted in numerous health complications, such as 250 penile amputations on a yearly basis, and more than 800 fatalities in the last 2 decades.
Given these appalling trends, South African surgeons have focused on providing relief to patients who had experienced botched circumcisions.
The first successful penis transplant in the world took place in Cape Town on December 11, 2014, and the recipient was a 21-year old man, whose rapid recovery amazed doctors.
By March, the recipient was reported to have regained essential functions, related to urination and reproduction, being able to experience penile erection, sexual climax and ejaculation.
In fact, June 2015, it was announced that the patient’s girlfriend was around 4 months pregnant, thus providing the most substantial proof that the operation had been efficacious in restoring the young man’s genital health.
It is hoped that medical practitioners at the Johns Hopkins Medicine will be equally successful when performing penile transplantation on injured veterans.
Basically, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the recipients will be able to urinate without difficulty, and have normal, satisfying sex lives, allowing them to one day experience the joys of fatherhood.
The first penis transplant in the United States will be performed on young military man who sustained extensive pelvic injuries in Afghanistan due to IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
The cost of the operation, whose ballpark figure is somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 will be covered by Johns Hopkins University. The Defense Department might pay for subsequent surgeries, while the medicine against transplant rejection will be provided through sponsorships from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The organ, which will be connected through an extensive network of nerves and veins, will come from a deceased donor, and doctors anticipate that it will become functional in a matter of months, as it becomes fully integrated as part of the recipient’s body.
Provided that such surgeries yield the desired results, they will probably be performed more extensively, even on gender reassignment patients who wish to alter their female genital anatomy in order to achieve a full transition as males.
However, as bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn points out, veterans injured in combat might still be higher on the transplant waiting list than those who experience gender identity disorder.
In addition, certain risks will remain associated with this type of surgery, such as infections or malignant tumors triggered by drugs which will have to be administered in order to stop the immune system from attacking the transplanted organ.
Image Source: Malawian Watchdog