Many more need penis operation

2015-03-17 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The team of doctors at Tygerberg Hospital who made the world’s first successful penis transplant are now getting requests from around the world from men who also need the operation.

Several men also offered to be donors.

The head of the urology ­department at Tygerberg, Professor André van der Merwe, said they did not expect the overwhelming reaction, but appreciated the publicity.

Nine men who lost their penises after botched circumcisions during traditional ceremonies are on a waiting list for a penis transfer since 2010.

Van der Merwe said they will first have to do a cost analysis to see if the hospital can afford more such operations, and if they may get financing from other sources.

“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from ­traditional ­circumcision,” explained Van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe said the main problem was to find donors.

“The heroes in all of this for me are the donor, and his ­family. They saved the lives of many people because they ­donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis,” says Van der Merwe.

He said most families were unwilling to send deceased men to their graves without a penis. Donors must have the same blood group and similar genetic material as the recipient.

Preparations to operate on the nine patients will start in the next three to six months.

The delicate nine-hour micro surgery employ some techniques developed for the first facial transplant.

“The psychological ­evaluation of patients was also ­similar. The procedure has to be sustainable and has to work in our environment at ­Tygerberg,” said Van der ­Merwe.

This procedure could eventually help men who have lost their penises from penile cancer or as a last-resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction due to medication side effects.

Because of the scarcity of donors, the recipient will be prepared to receive a penis from a different race.

In such a case the skin can be replaced with other skin or ­tattooed.

Like other transplant recipients, men who have a penis transplant have to take immune suppressants for the rest of their lives to stop their bodies rejecting the donated organ.

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