How Surgery Can Now Replace An Entire Penis

Photographed By Fernanda Silva.
A South African medical team has performed what is being hailed as the first successful penis transplant — almost 10 years after a Chinese man received the world's first transplanted penis, which he then had removed two weeks later. The latest transplant recipient, a 21-year-old South African who is remaining anonymous, received his new penis via a nine-hour operation performed by surgeons at Stellenbosch University's Tygerberg Hospital on December 11. (His penis had been amputated in a circumcision gone wrong three years prior.) Now, three months post-op, the young man's doctors have declared the procedure a success: He can now urinate, sustain an erection, orgasm, and ejaculate, reports the BBC — though he doesn't yet experience full sensation in his new organ.

Penis transplants are notoriously difficult, which is why this successful instance marks a huge milestone in medicine. Generally, surgeons reconstruct biological males' penises by covering penis-shaped prosthetics with skin from non-genital areas of patients' bodies and grafting those prosthetics onto the body; to achieve erections, recipients of these prosthetics must use pumps or insertable rods. (Sex-reassignment procedures can also use clitorises as the foundation for penises.)

An oft-cited example of penis transplantation is that of a 44-year-old Chinese man who in 2006 received the penis of a 22-year-old brain-dead donor. But, while the man's body didn't reject the penis (risk of immunological rejection in these procedures is high), he and his wife didn't adapt to the new organ on a psychological level, and the man asked to have it removed. News of a successful transplant, however, offers many men considerable hope of gaining normal genital function.

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