Within the next year, and possibly with a couple of months, a young U.S. soldier with a horrific bomb blast injury that took place in Afghanistan will have surgery that never before has been performed in the U.S.
The soldier will receive a penis transplant.
The organ will be donated by a deceased donor and surgeons from Baltimore’s John Hopkins University School of Medicine say they believe they will start working within a few months, developing sensation, urinary function and eventually the ability for the recipient to have sex.
Between 2001 and 2013, over 1,364 military service personnel who were male, suffered wounds to their genitals in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nearly all of the men were 35 years old or younger and were hurt due to homemade bombs that are called IEDs or improvised homemade bombs.
Some of the blast took parts of testicles or penises, which are known as genitourinary injuries.
Missing limbs are now a well known symbol of wars, but the genital damage is hidden and to most one that is far worse cloaked in stigma, embarrassment and shame.
The injuries are not discussed or written about much but all agree that they are just as devastating as other wounds that are suffered on the battlefield.
Medical journals have reported just two penis transplants. One failed in 2006 in China and one was successful last year in South Africa.
The surgery is still considered to be experimental and the doctors have been given permission by John Hopkins to perform as many as 60 transplants.
The university is going to monitor all results and decide if the operation will become standard treatment. Risks like those for any major operation that involves a transplant include infection, bleeding and a possibility that medicine used to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ will increase cancer odds.
Doctors cautioned that patients had to be realistic and think there might be a chance 100% is not regained, but doctors can give most recipients a range of expectations.
Some hope to have children and that is a realistic goal. The penis and not testes are to be transplanted so if one of the recipients eventually is a father, the offspring is genetically his and not the donor’s.