A brand new penis, but does it work?

By March 13, 2015Surgery

No, it’s not science fiction Shinchon Zombie Comics! In December 2014, a 21-year-old South African man, who remains anonymous, woke up with a fully-functioning, new penis. (Well, not entirely new, as it was a transplant from a generous donor.)

South Africa remains at the forefront of surgical breakthroughs: Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in 1967, and as of this year, Prof. André van der Merwe and his surgical team, put the first successful penis transplant on our books. What will be next?

The news-piece, released this week, sparked a lot of questions, so we decided to do what we do best: give you answers.

Here are the top 5 (appropriate) questions on this ground-breaking event, with our doctors’ responses:

“Does the penis work? What ‘inflates’ it?”

Under normal circumstances, your penis gets erect when small blood vessels open up, allowing blood to fill up the penis. In this case, the penis was connected to the patient’s blood vessels and nerve supply with microscopic surgery, which means his penis will work in the same way every other man’s penis does.

“How long before the patient can have sex?”

This is a great question, and not always that easy to answer. There are two things we need to think about:

  1. How quickly you recover. Every person recovers at a different speed: If you have deep wounds, we often wait anything between 6 weeks, to 6 months before we are sure that everything is healed. With superficial wounds, the recovery can be as quick as 2 weeks.
  2. What do you need to use it for? There is obviously quite some friction that happens during intercourse. The surgeons will lead the patient as to how quickly he can have sex again, based on his level of comfort, as well as the healing of the wounds. According to Prof. van der Merwe, this specific patient should be fully functional in 2 years, if not sooner.
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“What was wrong with the original organ? Can they transplant another one if that fails again?”

According to Prof. van der Merwe, this patient had to have his penis amputated, after traditional circumcision went wrong. Unfortunately, this statistic for botched circumcisions is still very high, which is why we always advise men to go for medical circumcision.

This surgery would also benefit patients who lose their penises due to cancer, or other accidents/diseases.

“Is the donor and the receiver of the same race – who can donate?”

Anyone can donate. If you volunteer to donate any of your organs for medical science or surgery, you can potentially save someone’s life; it’s one of the best things you can leave behind when you pass away. Doctors always test your organs – whether it’s your penis or a kidney – to make sure that the recipient’s body will accept the organ.

Unlike a heart or kidney, your skin color matters for the the penis to look natural. The doctors will make sure to keep the donor and the recipient’s skin color in mind.

We are very proud of our colleagues in Stellenbosch University, and excited to see where this medical breakthrough can take us. There are about 250 cases of men who need to amputate their penis every year, due to complications of circumcision.

We trust that this kind of surgery can offer some hope and restore dignity for those young men out there.

Source: University of Stellenbosch media release