BALTIMORE – Doctors from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore are planning to perform experimental penis transplants on veterans.

In a few months, young soldiers who have been badly injured by a bomb blast in Iraq or Afghanistan will go through a surgery that has never been done in the United States, the New York Times made known on Sunday. The operation was first reported in China in 2006 and last year in South Africa.

Photo: 3D Print.
Only the last one transplant was successful and the patient even became a father recently. Photo: 3D Print.

The veterans will receive the organ from a deceased donor and would gradually develop their urinary function, sensation and the ability to have sex. After removing the donor’s organ with his family permission, surgeons will attach it to the transplant recipient and connect all the nerves and blood vessels using a microscope. The operation will take at least 12 hours and will cost from $200,000 to $400,000.

Just like any other surgery, this one comes with risks that include infection and bleeding. Besides, the patient will have to take drugs for the rest of his life in order to suppress his immune system or prevent his body from rejecting the new organ. These medications could increase his risk of developing cancer in a future.

The transplant doesn’t include the testes. This means that, if the patient manages to conceive children, they would be his own genetically because the donor’s sperm won’t be transplanted along with his testicles. Men who have completely lost them won’t be able to have biological children but can still have penis transplants.

Psychological implications

As it’s commonly known, soldiers are likely to go home with missing limbs, but genital loss or damage – known by experts as genitourinary injury – is a wound they wouldn’t talk about because it carries so much embarrassment and stigma with it.

“These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often,” commented Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, the Director of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins. “I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed.”

This kind of disfiguring injuries have a terrible psychological impact on vets and that is why experts are making big efforts in finding the solution, as told to Huffington Post by Dr. Joseph Alukal, an urologist and director of male reproductive health at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Doctors face a real challenge. If the new organ’s look and function happen to be anyhow wrong, the transplant recipient will have to go through a lifetime having a weird and strange object where his original penis should be. That’s the reason why doctors warn soldiers to have realistic expectations before undergoing the surgery.

According to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry, 1,367 men in military service experienced genital wounds in Iraq or Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013. Almost all of them were under 35 and some suffered from partial or complete penises or testicles loss caused by improvised explosive devices.

Source: Huffington Post