Surgeons said Monday they have done the first penis transplant in the U.S., helping a 64-year-old man who lost his organ to cancer.
Massachusetts General Hospital planned a news conference later Monday to give details about the transplant, which is only the third recorded penis transplant ever done globally.
Thomas Manning, a bank courier from Halifax, Massachusetts, underwent 15 hours of delicate surgery, doctors said. “Earlier this month during a 15-hour procedure, surgeons connected the intricate vascular and nerve structures of a donor penis with those of the 64-year-old transplant recipient. The patient continues to recover well,” the hospital said in a statement.
Manning is already up and about, his surgeons said.
More than 50 staff, including surgeons, urologists, and other experts, took part in the tricky and delicate procedure. Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, who performed the hospital's first hand transplant, teamed up with urologist Dr. Dicken Ko and others to plan the operation.
Ko said men who lose all or part of their genitals to injury or cancer are not just inconvenienced by the loss. The psychological effects are profound, he said.
"These courageous survivors often are left with a very abnormal urinary system, loss of sexual function and, ultimately, a loss of identity," Ko told a news conference.
"Their devastating losses are endured by themselves alone and often,most of the time, in silence."
Combat veterans are often so devastated that they consider suicide, Cetrulo added. "It makes them feel isolated and, in some cases, despondent," he said.
Manning, who is not married, said the transplant has "quite literally saved my life."
"In 2012 my life changed forever when I suffered a debilitating work accident followed by a devastating cancer diagnosis," he said in a statement.
China reported an unsuccessful transplant in 2006, saying it was reversed deliberately because the man and his wife did not like the result.
Penis transplants are complicated. The organ has many blood vessels and nerve endings, and also must connect the urethra to the bladder and to the prostate inside the body.
Plastic surgeons can perform penile reconstruction using a patient’s own skin but a transplant of an entire organ is more complicated.
Cetrulo said Manning had to undergo a series of scans to make sure his body was physically adaptable to a transplant. Size and location of key blood vessels are important, for instance.
He also had to be healthy enough to undergo such a long operation, psychologically stable and he had to be motivated and able to take care of himself afterwards, including by taking immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the new penis.
Researchers funded by the U.S. military are also working on ways to regenerate penises in the lab for transplant using a patient’s own cells. The hope is to help soldiers whose genitals have been damaged by mines and other explosive devices.
The United Network for organ Sharing says there is one patient on the waiting list for a penile transplant in the United States. The University of Maryland Medical System, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital all have approval to perform them.
Alexandra Glazier of the New England Organ Bank said the family of the donor, a man who had died, was praying for Manning's recovery. "There are not words to thank a family for this selfless gift of donation," Glazier told the news conference.
"The donation has been uplifting for their family as it has helped them get through this difficult time."