First successful penis transplant performed in South Africa

"There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world," said surgeon Andre van der Merwe.
By Brooks Hays  |  March 13, 2015 at 3:59 PM
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa, March 13 (UPI) -- Doctors in South Africa have successfully performed the world's first penis transplant. The nine-hour operation saw the penis of a deceased donor sewed onto a young man without the organ.

The surgery took place three months ago, but doctors in Cape Town only just announced its success at a press conference on Friday -- only recently able to confirm that the recipient's new sex organ is fully functional.

The unnamed recipient, a 21-year-old who lost his penis in a ritual circumcision gone wrong, is reported to be delighted by his surgery's outcome.

"The patient accepted the penis as his own," surgeon Andre van der Merwe, head of the urology division at Stellenbosch University, told the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) -- as reported by the Guardian.

"He told me in no uncertain terms that the fact it belonged to somebody else is completely out of his mind and he's moved on with this as his own penis," he added. "That's absolutely the way we want it."

The operation took place at Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town.

"South Africa remains at the forefront of medical progress," Jimmy Volmink, dead of Stellenbosch's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, told eNCA.

"This procedure is another excellent example of how medical research, technical know-how and patient-centered care can be combined in the quest to relieve human suffering."

In southern and eastern Africa, tradition male circumcision practices remain common. Studies have shown circumcision to be helpful in preventing the spread of HIV, but complications do occur. One study estimated that problems arise in anywhere from 1.7 to 7.6 percent of traditionally performed circumcisions. And while most are of minor clinical significance, occasionally problems can prove deadly.

"There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world," Van der Merwe explained in a statement released by the hospital. "For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn't necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men."

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