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US Soldiers Damaged In War May Soon Receive Genital Transplants

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

Exactly 1,367 male servicemenbers have suffered serious genital wounds in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For these men, a pioneering new penis transplant surgery may offer some hope.

The vast majority of those men were hit by improvised explosive devices, damaging all or part of their testicles and penises, The New York Times reports.

Surgeons from Johns Hopkins University expect that the transplant surgery will unfold smoothly, with various organ functions being restored over a period of months, the most important of which is urinary function. The penises will come from the deceased. Doctors had to seek special consent, as donating a penis is much more sensitive than donating a kidney.

Doctors seem fairly optimistic about regaining sexual function, but as Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the university mentioned, patients should not expect to “regain it all.” These men may, upon transplant, be able to father children, unless they also lack testicles.

Some doctors think that because genital loss is not life-threatening, the operation is superfluous. Dr. Richard J. Redett, director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, told The New York Times that, “If you meet these people, you see how important it is.”

“To be missing the penis and parts of the scrotum is devastating,” Redett adds. “That part of the body is so strongly associated with your sense of self and identity as a male.”

There are two recorded penis transplants in the medical journals. An attempt in China failed in 2006, but another try by doctors in South Africa in 2014 succeeded.

The reason the Chinese surgery failed is because of “psychological rejection.” Doctors had to cut off the penis, leaving the man with a stump, unable to urinate or engage in sexual intercourse. In South Africa, the 21-year-old patient, who received the transplant after losing his original in a circumcision accident, has fathered a child.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins have found their first patient.

Johns Hopkins will cover the cost for the first surgery, after which it expects the Department of Defense to chip in for more operations.

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