Following the world’s first successful penis transplant last year, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHU) in Baltimore will start performing penis transplants on 60 military veterans who have suffered genitourinary injuries during combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The team led by Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee are set to carry out the first 12-hour operation next year that will connect four small arteries, two veins and at least two nerves that will help restore urinary – and ultimately – sexual function. JHU hopes that sensation will return within six to 12 months after surgery.
“Normally, in the hand or anywhere else, we need to reconnect the nerves. The nerves need to grow until the end of the organs, and that’s a process that can take months,” Lee said.
The first procedure will involve a penis donated by a young deceased donor, with his family’s permission of course
Carisa Cooney, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, said the hospital began looking into the possibility of penile transplants after getting requests back in 2012.
“You put into context that these are usually young men who perhaps haven’t had a chance to start a family. A lot of time masculinity has a lot to do with the perception of themselves. And to have injury to the genitalia can be devastating to their identity and to their relationships back home,” Cooney said.
According to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, one of the questions doctors hear immediately after a serviceman is injured is “How’s my junk?”
Lee emphasized the Johns Hopkins team is working on transplanting the penis, not the testicles, where the sperm line is generated. So, as long as a patient’s testicles are functional, he would be able to father his biological children. But the penis transplant would not have any bearing on fertility.
According to Cooney, the procedure is estimated to cost $200,000 to $400,000 in addition to donated surgical time. Johns Hopkins has volunteered to pay for the first transplant.