A man in South Africa who underwent the first successful penis transplant is about to be a father. The news was released by the surgeon who performed the transplant.
The 22-year-old man, who has not been named, had lost his penis in a botched circumcision when he was 18. Circumcision rituals are performed on young adult men in some parts of Africa as a coming of age ritual that marks becoming an adult man. The procedure can go badly for many each year, with them either losing part or all of their penises or dying of infection. Around 250 young South African men lose their penises each year in botched circumcisions.
The transplant was a success and within a few days of the surgery, the man was able urinate through the new penis and ejaculate. He was having normal sexual relations five weeks after the surgery.
The 9-hour-long transplant surgery took place in December in Capetown, South Africa. Surgeons, led by Dr. Andre Van der Merwe, transplanted the penis from a deceased donor. The procedure was controversial because, unlike a heart or kidney transplant, it is not meant to save a life. Such a transplant will require the recipient to take immune-suppression drugs for the rest of this life, which increase his risk of a serious infection or some types of cancer. The surgery itself is extremely delicate, calling for surgically attaching blood vessels that are 1.5 millimeters wide. In comparison, a kidney transplant requires attaching blood vessels that are
However, losing a penis can be psychologically devastating for a man. "You may say it doesn't save their life, but many of these young men when they have penile amputations are ostracized, stigmatized and take their own life," Van der Merwe told the BBC. "If you don't have a penis you are essentially dead, if you give a penis back you can bring them back to life."