A 21-year-old man who lost his penis after circumcision regains all function within four months of surgery.
Doctors have performed the world’s first successful penis transplant.
The nine-hour operation by surgeons in Cape Town offers hope to high numbers of South African men who lose their penises due to complications with traditional circumcision.
Experts thought the unnamed 21-year-old patient – who had to have his penis amputated three years ago after circumcision – would take two years to regain all function.
However, it has taken just four months for this to occur – resulting in December’s operation being declared a success.
The surgery was five years in the planning at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital.
It was led by Professor Andre van der Merwe, who said: “We are very surprised by his rapid recovery.
“It’s a massive breakthrough. We’ve proved that it can be done – we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had.
“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision.”
The surgery has been attempted once before – but this is the first example of a successful long-term result.
Experts estimate as many as 250 penis amputations take place every year across South Africa.
“This is a very serious situation,” said Prof van der Merwe. “For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic.
“He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men.
“The heroes in all of this for me are the donor, and his family. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis.”
The transplant followed the path laid by the first facial transplant.
“We used the same type of microscopic surgery to connect small blood vessels and nerves, and the psychological evaluation of patients was also similar,” said Prof van der Merwe.
The procedure could eventually be extended to men who have lost their penises from penile cancer or as a last-resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction.