US veteran who survived blast receives penis transplant

Kenny Tucker
April 24, 2018

In a world first, doctors with Johns Hopkins performed a total penis and scrotum transplant on the veteran, who has chosen to remain anonymous.

The young army veteran received an entire penis, scrotum (without testicles), and partial abdominal wall from a deceased donor.

The 14-hour operation performed last month at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, was the most complex and extensive penis transplant ever attempted.

"It's a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept", the patient said, according to the press release. "When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal ..."

Two other successful penis transplants have been performed - in South Africa in 2014 and at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 2016.

The recipient was a combat soldier badly maimed by an IED blast in Afghanistan.

The patient's injury in Afghanistan also necessitated the amputation of both of his legs above the knee. "Confidence ... like finally I'm OK now".

For a functional penis transplant, surgeons must connect tiny nerves and blood vessels.

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Speaking to The New York Times, the veteran said his injury took an huge toll on his relationship and psyche.

Little information has been released about the donor, who was from New England, or his cause of death, though his family released a statement through New England Donor Services about the transplant. "I struggled with even viewing myself as a man for a long time".

Using the patient's own tissue taken from other parts of their body, is another way a penis could be reconstructed.

The first such operation in the USA transplanted an organ from a deceased donor to a 64-year-old penile cancer survivor, Thomas Manning of Halifax, Massachusetts.

Called a vascularised composite allotransplantation, it was the first surgery of its kind anywhere in the world.

As with any transplant surgery, rejection of the patient's transplanted tissue is a concern, so he is also receiving immune system-suppressing drugs to reduce the risk of rejection.

Many patients suffer in silence because of the stigma their injuries sometimes carry. Except for his immediate family and a few close friends, he had told no one about the nature of his wounds, he said. "In their period of grief they were able to think of others in need, and we are deeply grateful for their gift", said Dr. Rick Redett, professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins.

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