Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed Monday that a cancer patient named Thomas Manning successfully underwent the first penis transplant in the United States.
Manning, 64, received the organ from a deceased donor. During the 15-hour procedure, surgeons placed the penis on a thin slab of skin, which was the result of penectomy Manning needed to prevent a rare penile cancer from spreading.
“I want to go back to being who I was,” Manning, who worked as a bank courier, told the New York Times, adding that a romantic relationship was unimaginable.
“I couldn’t have a relationship with anybody,” he said. “You can’t tell a woman, ‘I had a penis amputation.'”
Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, leader of Manning’s surgical team, said urination will be possible in a few weeks and sexual function will return in weeks to months.
Cetrulo said U.S. organ transplant programs will make military service veterans a priority, partly because of the alarmingly high rates of suicide among vets with severely damaged genitals. “They’re 18- to 20-year-old guys, and they feel they have no hope of intimacy or a sexual life. They can’t even go to the bathroom standing up.”
Manning, for his part, says he hopes his decision to speak publicly about the operation gives other men with genital cancers or injuries the confidence to know that there is hope.
However, the Department of Defense wants experimental penile procedures like Manning’s to be perfected before military veterans’ operations become the norm.
Cetrulo said the Department of Defense, “does not like to have wounded warriors undergo unproven techniques — i.e., they do not want them to be ‘guinea pigs,’ as they have already sacrificed so much.”
“We hope to make this kind of experimental surgery safe and routine,” Cetrulo said.
Department of Defense data reveals that from 2001 to 2013, 1,367 men in the military — most of them under 35 and injured in IED explosions — suffered genitourinary injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a disproportionate amount of what we call urogenital trauma — trauma to the penis or testicles — which is an unfortunate byproduct of the nature of the injuries they sustain because of things like IED explosions,” said Dr. Joseph Alukal, director of male reproductive health at NYU Langone Medical Center to CBS News News last year. “It’s been far more of an issue with this engagement than what we’ve ever seen before.”
Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are growing testicular tissue and penises and are preparing to conduct penis transplants.
The world’s first successful penis transplant procedure was performed in South Africa in December 2014.
Thomas Manning’s operation cost more than $75,000, according to the New York Times.