Doctors from Johns Hopkins University are planning to offer military veterans the country’s first penis transplants. Surgeries are expected to start within a year and it is hoped that they would allow recipients to regain sensation, urinary, and sexual function within a matter of months.
Perhaps most notably, Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee ,Chairman of plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins tells the New York Times that enabling wounded veterans to father children “is a realistic goal.”
Transplants will only involve the penis itself and not the testes, which means that children sired after the surgery would remain genetically related to the recipients.
The doctors say that they felt compelled to offer these transplants in order to address the psychological toll that injuries of such nature have on wounded veterans. “I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed,” says Dr. Lee.
The below image gives you a basic idea of how this process works.
According to the Department of Defense Trauma registry, from 2001 to 2013, 1,367 men (mostly under the age of 35 years old) came home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan having suffered genital injuries. One doctor says that, in his experience, as a result of the societal importance that is placed on sex and sexuality, these young veterans would prefer to lose both legs and an arm rather than suffer genital injuries.
Johns Hopkins has permitted doctors to perform 60 transplants, the first of which already has its first candidate who is undergoing an evaluation process.
Johns Hopkins will be covering the cost of this first transplant, which is estimated to fall between a staggering $200,000 to $400,000, with the University asking the Defense Department to cover more of the transplants to follow.
The surgery will take approximately 12 hours and will involve connecting nerves, veins, and arteries, which are likely to grow into the transplanted penis at around an inch per month. Recipients are expected to regain urinary function within a matter of weeks, and sexual function within months.
Though many individuals and media reports focus on things like heart and lung transplants, it is important to note the impact that genitourinary injuries have on individuals’ lives and the significance of treatment options for those who have suffered such injuries.