More than a thousand veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered what doctors politely called “genitourinary injuries.” Or, to be blunt, damage to the penis, including partial or even total destruction of the organ. The psychological damage that comes with such an injury is severe, but fortunately, veterans now have an option to begin a road to recovery: The penis transplant.
Until now, the penis transplant has largely been the province of overseas medicine, and there have only been two so far. There’s a reason; genitals are a complex bundle of systems, and installing a new, fully functional set is a nine-hour surgery followed by counseling and possibly immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of the patient’s life.
The procedure itself is simple in the details. Patients will need the major blood vessels, nerves, and the urethra intact, and a donor penis, given with the full consent and awareness of the donor’s family, will be attached. The main question is whether the patient will accept the donor organ; this is such new territory, no one’s really sure what will happen when the donor wakes up.
This particular series of transplants, 60 in all, are something of a pilot program; Johns Hopkins will monitor the surgeries and their long-term successes to consider making the process standard. That said, there’s a good chance to regain almost total function: The first successful penis transplant recipient fathered a child less than a year after his surgery. But fully functional or only partially, for wounded veterans, it might just be the best chance to heal from a deeply personal and psychologically scarring injury.
(Via The New York Times)