New York, NY – Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston just made news around the world when they completed the first penis transplant earlier this month. The patient, Thomas Manning, lost his penis to cancer. Now the 64 year old has a new penis, donated from a deceased man.
“These types of experimental surgeries are so important in the medical world,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Elliot Heller. “As a doctor, I want to help people – and surgeries like this can help patients get back their lives completely, no matter what may have happened in the past.”
The research program that developed the surgery is aimed at helping combat veterans with severe pelvic injuries, as well as accident victims and cancer patients.
If Manning heals as his doctors think he will, he will be able to urinate normally, and will regain all sexual sensation and can return to sexual activity in a few months.
For his part, Manning is encouraging men to speak out publicly about issues such as cancer or injury that may affect their genitals, and to know that they shouldn’t feel ashamed or hide because of it.
“This work is encouraging to me,” says Dr. Heller, who specializes in male enhancement surgeries. “I see the very real psychological effects that can damage men who are self-conscious about their genitals. Thinking something is wrong with their penis, or losing it altogether to injury or disease, can be crippling to a man. These doctors and researchers who have worked to perfect these transplants should be commended.”
Transplant programs in the United States plan to focus heavily on wounded veterans, as suicide rates are exceptionally high in soldiers with damage to their genitals or urinary tract. The team at Massachusetts General Hospital will perfect the technique on civilian volunteer patients, then move on to injured veterans. They will also train military doctors to perform the transplant.
Genitourinary injuries affected 1,367 male soldiers between 2001 and 2013. Almost all of them were under the age of 35.
“It may seem silly, but men often judge their own masculinity by their genitals,” says Dr. Heller. “I see it every day in men who are self-conscious and frightened of intimacy because they don’t think they are normal. This surgery offers the ability to return to a normal life for men who may have lost hope.”
Men who are candidates for the procedure will be put on a waiting list after going through a battery of medical tests, interviews and psychological testing. Once a donor with the correct blodd type and skin tone is found, the patient will be notified. Manning’s transplant surgery took 15 hours, with a dozen surgeons and more than 30 health care workers lending a hand.
Another patient at Massachusetts General Hospital will receive a transplant once a donor comes available. A combat veteran injured in Afghanistan is on a waiting list, and surgeons at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine hope to perform that surgery.
Two other penis transplants have been performed worldwide. In 2006, Chinese doctors performed one, however, that one failed. Doctors in South Africa had success in 2014, and that patient even went on to father a child.
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