Study: Transgender Genital Surgeries Result in Pain, Incontinence

Surgical instruments and supplies lay on a table during a kidney transplant surgery at Med
AP Photo/Molly Riley

Four out of five people who undergo transgender-related surgery involving their genitals endure pain in the five years after the procedure, more than half feel pain while having sex, and about one-third are left incontinent, one of the first studies into the side effects discovered.

“There is a high percentage reporting musculoskeletal pain, difficulty moving, and pelvic floor dysfunction,” University of Florida professor Meryl Alappattu said. “In terms of getting information related to the efficacy of these types of treatments — we still have a lot of work to do.”

Researchers from the University of Florida and Brooks Rehabilitation found the vast majority (81 percent) of those who had surgery on their genitals in the past five years say they endured pain in their lower back, groin, pelvis, chest, or shoulders in the weeks, months, and even years after their procedures, according to a report by Daily Mail.

Additionally, more than half (57 percent) of these patients found sexual intercourse painful after their surgeries, and nearly one third (29 percent) of them suffered urinary incontinence or a frequent and urgent need to go to the restroom, the report added.

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Overall, only a quarter of these individuals saw a physiotherapist to overcome their new problems.

Alappattu said she will be publishing her report on this issue later this year but shared some provisional finding with Daily Mail.

The researchers studied 21 trans and non-binary people between the ages of 20 and 70 who had undergone trans-related surgeries in the past five years — mostly mastectomies and vaginoplasties.

In the transgender world, vaginoplasty refers to a biological male undergoing surgery in order to obtain a vagina.

Alexandra Hill, an expert on pelvic problems at the University of Florida, explained that male patients with the desire to become female were shocked to discover prolonged recoveries after surgery, which in some cases lasted longer than the 6 to 8 weeks they expected.

“Sometimes it takes much longer than people had initially anticipated to get back to doing things they like to do,” Hill said.

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Many biological males who get a vagina constructed for them are also surprised to learn that they will have to insert a “dilator” into their canal for up to an hour each day after surgery, Daily Mail reported.

To make matters worse, if the patient does not use a dilator — which resembles a sex toy — the neo-vagina can gradually shorten in depth, and some patients will have to use the device for the rest of their lives.

“That’s something a lot of people don’t realize,” Hill said.

Meanwhile, female patients with the desire to become male may decide to have a penis constructed from tissue extracted from their arms. This procedure, however, is not realistic, as the result of the surgery is remarkably different than a real penis.

Nonetheless, these genital surgeries are very rare within the trans community, with only 16 percent of the estimated 1.6 million trans and non-binary Americans ages 13 and above getting the procedures, according to the Washington Post and KFF.

But among those who do opt for such surgeries, there appears to be a copious amount of pain and suffering.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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