First penis transplants scheduled in U.S.

Dec 07, 2015, 4:52 PM EST
Johns Hopkins University. (Source: callison-burch/Flickr)
Johns Hopkins University. (Source: callison-burch/Flickr)

The first-ever penis transplants will be performed in the United States; 60 war veterans who have lost parts or all of their genitalia will be the first patients. The surgery was successful last year in South Africa, and failed in 2006 in China. The New York Times reports:

Within a year, maybe in just a few months, a young soldier with a horrific injury from a bomb blast in Afghanistan will have an operation that has never been performed in the United States: a penis transplant.
The organ will come from a deceased donor, and the surgeons, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, say they expect it to start working in a matter of months, developing urinary function, sensation and, eventually, the ability to have sex.
From 2001 to 2013, 1,367 men in military service suffered wounds to the genitals in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry. Nearly all were under 35 and were hurt by homemade bombs, commonly called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s. Some lost all or part of their penises or testicles — what doctors call genitourinary injuries.
“Our young male patients would rather lose both legs and an arm than have a urogenital injury,” Scott E. Skiles, the polytrauma social work supervisor at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, told the Times.
The procedure itself is no easy feat, with Johns Hopkins doctors estimating a 12-hour surgical marathon. And the stakes are high. From an earlier Speaking of Science post on the subject:
It's no small thing to reattach any organ, and sexual organs have added psychological implications. If the function (both urinary and sexual) and appearance aren't just right, the recipient has to deal with the implications of having a troublesome foreign object where his penis should be.
Even if everything is working physically, the psychological trauma can sometimes be too much to bear. That's what happened to the Chinese patient who could have been the first successful recipient: In 2006, 10 days after a physically successful surgery, the man asked doctors to remove his new organ.
"We want to continue to expand the field into areas that are not easy to reconstruct using conventional methods," Dr. Damon Cooney, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery and co-clinical director of the penile transplant program at Johns Hopkins, told CBS News. "The more and more interactions we've had with the military, the more we came to find out that although people aren't talking about it much, genital injuries are a much bigger problem for a lot of people."