“It is our hope that such a life-changing transplant will allow him to regain urinary and sexual function and lead a normal life,” said Dr. Richard Redett, an associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Redett was part of a team of team of nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons who transplanted a deceased donor’s entire penis, scrotum and partial abdominal wall over the course of 14 hours on March 26.
Some soldiers who lose lower limbs from mines and improvised explosive devices also experience loss of or damage to their genitals.
The recipient chooses to remain anonymous but sustained his injuries while serving in Afghanistan. He has recovered from the surgery and could be discharged from the hospital this week but remains on drugs to prevent rejection of the transplant.
“It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept,” the soldier said in statement released by Johns Hopkins. “When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal … (with) a level of confidence as well. Confidence … like finally I’m OK now.”
The surgery is the latest breakthrough for the Hopkins reconstructive team. In 2013, the team performed a double arm transplant on Brendan Marrocco, who lost both of his arms, as well as his legs, in the Iraq war when the armored vehicle he was driving ran over a bomb in 2009. He was the first soldier of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to lose all four limbs in combat and survive.
The penile transplant should allow the soldier to eventually regain sexual function, said Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, a professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
While a penis can be reconstructed using other tissue from the body, only a transplanted penis could achieve an erection, Lee said. Wounded servicemen also often don’t have enough good tissue to work with.
The surgery is formally known as a vascularized composite allotransplantation. It involves transplanting skin, muscles and tendons, nerves, bone and blood vessels.
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