South African doctors perform world’s first successful penis transplant

South African doctors perform the world’s first successful penis transplant on a young man who had his organ amputated after a botched circumcision ritual.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (UNIVERSITY OF STELLENBOSCH) – South African doctors performed the world’s first successful penis transplant in a Cape Town hospital in December on a young man who had his organ amputated after a botched circumcision ritual, the University of Stellenboch said on Friday (March 13).

The nine-hour transplant, which occurred on December 11 last year, was part of a pilot study by Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch, aimed at helping scores of initiates who either die or lose their penises in botched circumcisions each year.

This is the second time that this type of procedure was attempted but the first time in history that a successful long-term result was achieved.

“We have performed a penis transplantation on a young man who lost his penis during ritual circumcision. He had a very bad complication and his penis became gangrenous. This happened at the age of eighteen and he his now twenty one years old,” said Andre van der Merwe, head of the university’s urology unit, who led the operation.

“We investigate visibility of doing penile transplant for such patients. These patients are very young and therefore they are extremely distraught when they lose a penis at the age of eighteen or twenty one. The penis was harvested from a donor whose family consented and we transplanted it in a nine hour operation to the recipient who currently, now three months after the operation, is doing very well,” he added.

The young patient has regained all urinary and reproductive functions in the newly transplanted organ, the University of Stellenbosch said in its website, adding that the procedure could eventually be extended to men who have lost their penises to cancer or as a last resort for severe erectile dysfunction.

The patient, who is not being named for ethical reasons, was 21 years old when his penis was amputated three years ago after he developed severe complications due to a traditional circumcision as a rite of passage into manhood.

Finding a donor organ was one of the major challenges of the study, the university said. The donor was a deceased person who donated his organs for transplant.

Each year thousands of young men, mainly from the Xhosa tribe in South Africa, have their foreskins removed in traditional rituals, with experts estimating around 250 losing their penises each year to medical complications. Initiates are required to live in special huts away from the community for several weeks, have their heads shaved and smeared with white clay from head to toe as they move into adulthood.

Another nine patients will receive penile transplants as part of the study, doctors said, but it was not clear when the operations could be carried out.