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Cancer patient receives first penis transplant in US

By Surgical Tribune
May 20, 2016

BOSTON, USA: A team of surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has performed the nation’s first genitourinary reconstructive penile transplant. The 15-hour operation, which took place earlier this month, involved surgically grafting the complex microscopic vascular and neural structures of a donor organ on to the comparable structures of the recipient. According to the Boston surgeons, the 64-year-old patient is recovering well.

After being diagnosed with penile cancer in 2012, the patient underwent a curative partial penectomy. The donor organ that he has received is supposed to re-establish his urinary and potentially his sexual function, and give his external genitalia a more natural appearance. While still early in the post-surgical healing process, his doctors said that they were cautiously optimistic that he would regain function. The surgeons were able to establish blood flow to the donor organ. Moreover, there were no signs of bleeding, rejection or infection.

The surgical procedure, led by Drs. Curtis L. Cetrulo Jr. and Dicken S.C. Ko, represents the culmination of more than three years of research and collaboration across multiple departments and divisions of the MGH Transplant Center, including plastic and reconstructive surgery, urology, psychiatry, infectious disease, nursing and social work. Cetrulo and Ko began researching the possibility of performing a genitourinary vascularized composite allograft transplant in 2012, shortly after an MGH team led by Cetrulo, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, completed its first hand transplant. Working closely with the New England Organ Bank, both surgeons developed key strategic surgical approaches aimed at helping patients with devastating genitourinary injuries.

The loss of genitalia can be truly devastating to an individual’s identity and sense of manhood. While individuals who have lost their penises to disease or who have suffered genitourinary injuries in combat or through a traumatic event can live without an intact organ, the psychological aspects of such an injury can be overwhelming, the surgeons said. The ability to offer a more acceptable long-term solution has been the motivation driving this research.

“These proof-of-principle cases will help establish the techniques used in this procedure and will forge the path to future treatment of patients with significant pelvic and genitourinary tissue loss related to cancer, trauma or infection,” said Ko, a urologist and transplant surgeon. “We are delighted to have taken the first steps to help those patients who have suffered silently for far too long.”

The first successful penile transplant was performed in December 2014 at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town in South Africa. The 21-year-old recipient’s penis had to be amputated in order to save his life when he developed severe complications after a traditional circumcision. In June 2015, media reported that according to his doctors, the patient is to become a father, his girlfriend being four months pregnant.

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