Stellenbosch successfully completes second penis transplant

A team from Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Tygerberg Academic Hospital has recently performed a second penis transplant, making it the first medical centre in the world to successfully perform this procedure twice, the university announced in a press release yesterday.

Prof André van der Merwe, Head of the Division of Urology at SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), led the marathon operation of nine and a half hours performed on 21 April at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The recipient was a 40 year old male who had lost his penis 17 years ago due to complications after a traditional circumcision. His identity is being protected for ethical reasons.

“He is certainly one of the happiest patients we have seen in our ward. He is doing remarkably well. There are no signs of rejection and all the reconnected structures seem to be healing well,” Van der Merwe said, according to the statement. The patient is expected to regain all urinary and reproductive functions of the organ within six months of the transplant. A colour discrepancy between the recipient and the donor organ will be corrected with medical tattooing between six to eight months after the operation.

An aerial view of Tygerberg Hospital. SOURCE: WikiCommons

“The success of this procedure in the hands of our transplant team is testimony to the high level of skill and expertise that exists in the public health sector in South Africa,” Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS, said in the statement. “Also of considerable pride is the team’s ability to balance compassionate and ethical patient care on the one hand, with a concern for the efficient use of scarce resources on the other.”

“This is a remarkable, ground-breaking procedure. I would like to congratulate the Tygerberg Hospital and the SU surgeons for doing such a sterling job. Traditional circumcision has claimed many young lives in South Africa. For this patient, life will never be the same again,” said Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape health minister, according to the statement.

“Patients describe a penis transplant as ‘receiving a new life’. For these men the penis defines manhood and the loss of this organ causes tremendous emotional and psychological distress,” said Dr Amir Zarrabi of the FMHS’s Division of Urology in the statement. He was a member of the transplant team. “I usually see cases of partial or total amputations in July and December – the period when traditional circumcisions are performed.”

The team consisted of Van der Merwe, Dr Alexander Zühlke, who heads the FMHS’s Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Prof Rafique Moosa, head of the FMHS’s Department of Medicine, Zarrabi and Dr Zamira Keyser of Tygerberg Hospital. They were assisted by transplant coordinators, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, a psychologist, an ethicist and other support staff.

In December 2014 Van der Merwe and his team performed the world’s first successful penis transplant.