Surgeons, led by Professor Andre van der Merwe, from the University of Stellenbosch (a South African university near Cape Town) announced on 13 March 2015, that they had performed the first successful penile transplant. You can read about it here: www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2328
The operation was performed in December 2014, on a man who had lost his penis due to gangrene that had set in after a poorly performed circumcision. Circumcision is a common practice in South Africa as it is an important cultural rite of passage for teenagers from certain ethnic groups. I will not be addressing the rights and wrongs of circumcision in this piece. The surgeons also noted that this procedure could be used on men who have had cancer of the penis that has necessitated removal of the penis and also for men with severe impotence that did not respond to any other treatments.
The patient has full sexual and urinary function from the transplanted penis. The nerves, blood vessels etc are all functioning correctly and he seems to be psychologically well adjusted. This has made me wonder if there is not the possibility for surgeons to use this technique for sex reassignment surgery (srs)?
As far as I am aware one of the biggest challenges with female to male srs is that it is very difficult to create a fully functional penis. It seems that this may be a possible solution to this problem. Also, it seems that male to female srs can be difficult when the patient has a smaller penis as this creates difficulties with getting adequate vaginal depth. I wonder if there may be scope for looking at vaginal transplants in such situations.
We are living in very interesting times. I hope that these advances in medicine can be used to benefit all members of society.