Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital have completed the first-ever penis transplant in the United States. The recipient, a 64-year-old bank courier, had been diagnosed with rare penile cancer, and his penis was amputated in order to increase his chances of survival. In a 15-hour procedure earlier this month, he received a penis transplant from a deceased donor.
The procedure is complex, both surgically and psychologically. Surgeons have been successful at re-attaching patients’ own penises for years, but in 2006, two weeks after Chinese surgeons grafted a cadaver’s penis onto a patient, he asked for the transplant to be removed, for psychological reasons. Then, in 2014, surgeons in South Africa performed a penis transplant on a 24-year-old man who had lost his organ because of infection after a ritual circumcision. Just six months after the transplant, the patient told his surgeons that his girlfriend was pregnant.
In February, surgeons at Johns Hopkins announced that they had selected a soldier wounded in a bomb blast in Afghanistan as the first American recipient for a penis transplant, but they were still practicing the procedure on cadavers in April.
Now, Thomas Manning, the bank courier from Halifax, Mass., is recovering at Mass General after surgery, which took place on May 8 and 9. The surgeons had to painstakingly attach the rich map of veins and nerves that allow the penis to be so sensitive.
On Friday, Manning was able to sit in a chair for the first time, according to the New York Times. He should be able to urinate normally within weeks, and his sexual function should return within a few months at the latest, if all goes well.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, who led the surgical team, told the Times. “It’s uncharted waters for us.”
Manning is open about the surgery, hoping to reduce the stigma that sometimes comes with genital injuries. This procedure could be especially useful for veterans, many of whom suffer debilitating psychological problems because of these kinds of injuries.
The news from Mass General comes months after the first ever American uterus transplant failed because of complications.