Cape Town - The recipient of the world's first successful penis transplant is a 21-year-old man who lost his penis due to severe complications following a traditional circumcision, surgeons said on Friday.Professor André van der Merwe, head of Stellenbosch University's Division of Urology, announced details of the groundbreaking operation at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town. The marathon nine-hour operation was carried out in December. Although this type of operation has been attempted before, this is the first time that a patient has made a full recovery, regaining all function in the organ. The patient's identity is being protected for ethical reasons. Amputation Van der Merwe said the recipient's penis had to be amputated in order to save his life when he developed severe complications from a traditional circumcision three years ago.Every year, a number of initiates lose their penises during traditional circumcision ceremonies, which are considered an important rite of passage for many boys into manhood. Penises become infected due to the use of unsterilized instruments and because of conditions during the ritual in the bush. Van der Merwe said there are no formal records on the number of penile amputations each year, but experts estimate there are as many as 250 amputations each year in the country. "This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn't necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men," says Van der Merwe."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," he said.