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Doctors Plan First Ever Penis Transplants for Veterans in the U.S.

Update Date: Dec 07, 2015 09:38 AM EST

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are planning the first ever penis transplant in the United States for war veterans.

Johns Hopkins has received the red light to perform 60 transplants. The procedures, which are considered to be experimental, should take place sometime over the next few months or within the new year. If successful, penis transplants could be added as a standard surgery at the medical center.

The process involves taking a penis from a deceased donor and attaching it to the patient. The surgeons will connect the blood vessels and nerves, and hope that the patient's nerves will grow, allowing him to use the donated penis. If everything goes as planned, the surgeons expect the penis to regain normal functions after a few months. The patients will have to take anti-rejection medication throughout their lives.

The risks involved in a penis transplant are similar to those seen in other transplants. They include bleeding, infection and an increased risk of cancer from taking the anti-rejection medication.

For the first case, the surgeons will be implanting a penis onto a young soldier who was hurt in a bomb blast during his time in Afghanistan.

The experts at Johns Hopkins are in the process of finding candidates for the patient.

"These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often," said Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, the chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins. "I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed."

Dr. Richard J. Redett, director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, added, "If you meet these people, you see how important it is. To be missing the penis and parts of the scrotum is devastating. That part of the body is so strongly associated with your sense of self and identify as a male. These guys have given everything they have."

According to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry, cited by the New York Times, about 1,367 men sustained wounds to their genital areas while serving the country in Iraq or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013. The majority of the men were under 35 when they were injured.

Only one out of two penis transplants ever conducted has been successful. The successful case occurred in South Africa last year. The other case that failed was in China in 2006.

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