Medical history for SU again

ATTACHED: The second successful penis transplant operation was completed by a Stellenbosch University medical team last month.

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.

Professor 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 April 21, at Tygerberg Hospital.

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,” says Professor Van der Merwe.

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.

“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,” says Professor Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS.

“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,” he said.

“This is a remarkable, ground-breaking procedure. Traditional circumcision has claimed many young lives in South Africa,” said Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Health Minister.

“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,” says Dr Amir Zarrabi of the FMHS’s Division of Urology, who was a member of the transplant team.

In December 2014 Professor Van der Merwe and his team performed the world’s first successful penis transplant, and more than two years later “the patient is doing extremely well, both physically and mentally”, says Professor Van der Merwe.