Over 1,000 wounded combat vets hoping first ever penis transplant is success

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Talbot, medical platoon sergeant in 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment and his team roll a patient on his side to check for injuries on his back, July 16, 2014. The Destroyer Aid Station has stabilized and medically evacuated nearly 40 trauma patients. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nelson Robles, 4IBCT, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

Doctors at Johns Hopkins University will soon perform the first penis transplants in the United States, and according to the Washington Post, wounded soldiers will be the first patients.

The procedure, which has been successful in South Africa, is being perfected there with the aim of helping men that are injured during ritual circumcisions, which are common in South Africa.

In the United States, circumcision after infancy is very uncommon, but there is still a need for penis transplants.

According to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry, 1,367 military members sustained injuries to the genitals while stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2011 and 2013.

Carisa Cooney, who is the clinical research manager in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery department at Johns Hopkins, told the Washington Post that the department had been approached by a number of servicemen and military leaders about the procedure.

In July 2013, the plastic surgery department started the process of getting approval. The department started with the Johns Hopkins internal review board, then moved on to the organ procurement organization.

“We were very concerned about getting the acceptability of the general public,” Cooney said.

While it is true that a man doesn’t require a penis to live a long and productive life, the fact that male genitals are associated with a sense of masculinity in our culture can make the loss debilitating.

The current option available to men without penises is reconstructive surgery, which uses skin from other parts of the body or prosthetics to recreate a penis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t restore natural function.

Doctors say the only way to restore natural function is by using an organ taken from a deceased donor and attaching it to a patient using the experimental surgery.

“These are very important in terms of giving back a sense of self,” Cooney said.

“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, said.

Once developed, the surgery could also help people with congenital deficiencies or transgender people seeking gender reassignment.

According to Cooney, Johns Hopkins is currently emphasizing the fact that the recipients are veterans that were injured in the line of duty, who are ineligible for drastic surgical fixes, understand the risks involved, and are eager to participate.

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