World’s first successful penis transplant

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South African doctors have successfully performed the world’s first penis transplant on a 21-year-old man whose organ had been amputated three years ago after a botched circumcision.
The nine-hour operation, which took place in December, was part of a pilot study by Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch to help the 250 or so young South African men who lose their penises each year after coming-of-age rituals go wrong. Doctors said the patient, who was not named, had already recovered full urinary and reproductive functions, and that the procedure could eventually be offered to men who have lost their penis to cancer or as a last resort for severe erectile dysfunction.
“Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery,” Prof Andre van der Merwe, the head of the university’s urology unit who led the operation, said in a statement. “South Africa remains at the forefront of medical progress,” says Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).
“This procedure is another excellent example of how medical research, technical know-how and patient-centred care can be combined in the quest to relieve human suffering. It shows what can be achieved through effective partnerships between academic institutions and government health services.”
Van der Merwe was assisted by Prof Frank Graewe, head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at SU FMHS, Prof Rafique Moosa, head of the FMHS Department of Medicine, transplant coordinators, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, a psychologist, an ethicist and other support staff.
Another nine patients have now been lined up to have the operation.
“Western Cape Government Health (WCGH) is very proud to be part of this ground-breaking scientific achievement,” says Dr Beth Engelbrecht, head of the WCGH. “We are proud of the medical team, who also form part of our own staff compliment at Tygerberg Hospital. It is good to know that a young man’s life has been significantly changed with this very complex surgical feat. From experience we know that penile dysfunction and disfigurement has a major adverse psychological effect on people.”
In Forbes, however, a US urologist has dismissed the talk of a ‘breakthrough’, saying that the circumstances of the patients requiring such surgery made it unlikely to unlikely to make it a common procedure in the future, since they lived in medically inaccessible areas unable to deliver the necessary aftercare.
Each year thousands of young South African men, mainly from the Xhosa tribe, mark their passage into manhood by shaving their heads and smearing themselves with white clay from head to toe, living in special huts away from the community for several weeks, and then undergoing ritual circumcision. But in May 2013, more than 20 youths died after initiation rituals in the northerly Mpumalanga province, prompting rare cross-party calls for reform of a traditional practice.

University of Stellenbosch material Full Reuters article Full Forbes article


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