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Veteran receives penis and scrotum transplant in surgery doctors say is a medical first

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An Afghanistan war veteran who had his genitals blown off by a roadside bomb is the recipient of a donated penis and scrotum that doctors hope will restore his ability to function normally.

Doctors said the transplant made in a 14-hour surgery, is a medical first.

The veteran, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, received the tissue transplant from a team of 11 doctors nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in March. The procedure was the result of years of research, studies and cadaver work, giving doctors hope that if it proves successful, it could be used for injured veterans and other men with severe injuries to their genital regions.

While extremity amputations are visible and resultant disability obvious, some war injuries are hidden and their impact not widely appreciated by others, W.P. Andrew Lee, chairman of the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told reporters speaking of the “devastating impact” that injuries had on men’s identity self-esteem and intimate relationships.

Doctors said they hoped that the patient who is expected to be released from the hospital this week, would regain “near-normal” urinary and sexual functions as he recovers and his nerves heal over the coming months.

It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer it is not an easy one to accept, the patient said in a release. When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal.

The transplant included an entire penis scrotum and partial abdominal wall from a donor which made it distinct from the four other penis transplants which only included the organ. Only a couple of the procedures have been successful.

For the transplant, the donor’s testes were first removed because of what the doctors said were complicated ethical issues, in particular the potential ability to father children with another man’s genetic material.

There were too many unanswered ethical questions with that kind of transplant, Damon Cooney, an assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, told reporters.

Another man who lost his penis to cancer was the recipient of more limited transplant in Massachusetts two years ago but he has yet to regain full sexual function, Curtis Cetrulo, who runs the reconstructive transplantation program at Massachusetts General told USA Today.

A diagram of the surgery.

The transplant that Johns Hopkins doctors did in March involved connecting blood vessels and nerves from the patient to the tissue material, including three arteries four veins and two nerves to provide complete blood transfusion and sensation,Richard Redett a plastic surgeon and Johns Hopkins professor said.

The procedure which was not covered by the patient’s insurance, was estimated to have cost between $300,000 to $400,000, the majority of which was covered by the hospital.

Little information has been released about the donor, who was from New England or his cause of death, although his family released a statement through New England Donor Services.

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