So, this week it was announced that doctors performed the first successful penis transplant. While we were definitely happy for the gentleman who benefitted from this medical feat, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves one important question: What the hell is a penis transplant?A 21-year-old man in Cape Town, South Africa, received the surgery after a botched circumcision he had when he was 18 left him with just one centimeter of his original penis. Then, after a nine-hour operation performed in December 2014, doctors declared his new penis to be “fully operational.” This is where they lose us. Here’s what we need to know.
1. Does the new penis work?
Doctors say that while full sensation has not yet returned to the man’s genitals, just a few months postsurgery, he is able to urinate, get an erection, orgasm, and ejaculate.
2. What is the penis made of?
It appears that the penis was donated just like any other organ is donated, meaning that it is not something that was created and attached, but genitals from a donor. One of the surgeons, Andre Van der Merwe, told a news channel in Africa that the transplanted penis “was harvested from a donor whose family consented.”
3. How does the surgery work?
According to Dr. Van der Merwe, the penile transplant surgery resembles other “microscopic surgery techniques” or other surgeries that involve connecting small blood vessels and nerves, like those developed for the first facial transplant.
4. Can a male reproduce with a penis that has been transplanted?
Because the man can ejaculate and have an orgasm, we can most likely assume that he will also be able to produce functional sperm, but this is not confirmed.
5. How does the recipient feel about receiving the donation?
Van der Merwe said that the recipient told him that “the fact it belonged to somebody else is completely out of his mind and he’s moved on with this as his own penis,” and added “That’s absolutely the way we want it.” The patient is said to be happy and is having very few side effects on his rapid path to recovery.
The success of an operation like this is extremely significant for others who have had complications with circumcision, but also potentially for men who have lost their penises due to cancer.
PUBLISHED 3/15/15 Hilary White
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