Stellenbosch University (SU) and Tygerberg Hospital’s surgeons have performed the first successful penis transplant operation in the world, in Bellville, Cape Town. The outstanding, nine-hour, surgical procedure was carried out in December 2014, by a team of surgeons led by Professor Andre van der Merwe, head of SU’s Division of Urology at the Tygerberg Hospital.
The full team of surgeons included Prof Frank Graewe, head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at SU FMHS, Prof Rafique Moosa, head of the FMHS Department of Medicine as well as transplant coordinators, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, a psychologist, an ethicist and other support staff.
The patient, a 21 year old man, had his penis totally removed through surgery, 3 years ago. The amputation was necessary because the man had earlier developed life threatening complications after a religious ritual, known as peritomy and/or circumcision. The organ that was transplanted was donated by the family of a man who was brain-dead.
The first facial transplant was the key in order doctors to develop the technique of the penis transplant. After extensive research Prof Van der Merwe and his surgical team decided to employ some parts of the above technique. As Prof Van der Merwe said “we used the same type of microscopic surgery to connect small blood vessels and nerves”.
The penis transplant will be performed in nine more patients as part of this pilot study, started in 2010. The doctors were extremely glad with the transplant’s results as the patient has already fully recovered and all his urinary, erectile and reproductive functions are working perfectly well.
Moreover, there is a special need for such operations in South Africa as, according to estimations, 250 young men lose their penises every year due to circumcision’s implications. The doctors hope that they will be able to help these men as well as to use the procedure in men who lost their penises due to penile cancer or other conditions.