In 2011, medics in Afghanistan began describing a new "signature wound" among American soldiers: two legs blown off by bomb blasts, plus significant damage to the genitals. The rate of limb amputation that year was twice as high as the two years before, and the rate of genital injuries was three times as high. And while there's been plenty of interest in helping amputee veterans explore sexuality and cope with their new bodies through sports and music, there hasn't been much hope to replacing what was lost.
Now, for the first time, a team of doctors at Johns Hopkins University is hoping to make penis transplants the next big thing for war veterans. The university has given doctors the green light to perform 60 penis transplants on men who were injured in combat, starting with an Afghanistan vet who is expected to receive his penis transplant within the next year, according to the New York Times.
On Motherboard: To Save or to Sever
To perform a penis transplant, doctors take tissue from a donor (in this case, a deceased man whose family agreed to the procedure) and meticulously reattach the nerves, veins, urethra, and corpora to reconstruct a fully-functional penis.
The procedure is considered experimental, and so far, only two penis transplants have ever been attempted—one failed, and one successful, in which a South African man's botched circumcision was repaired with a transplant. That man is now reportedly becoming a father, which is promising news for future transplants.
Last year, at a conference on injured veterans, a bioethicist from Johns Hopkins University explained that more than other bodily injuries, genital injuries have a particularly large impact on a man's sense of identity. The Department of Defense Trauma Registry logged 1,367 men who had suffered injuries to the genitals between 2001 and 2013—some of whom may now get a second chance.
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