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A surgical team is pleased to announce the first successful penis transplant in South Africa, BBC News reports.

The operation took place in December 2014; the 21-year-old recipient was given the generous donation after experiencing a botched circumcision at the age of 18. The botched job happened during a ceremony that is seen as a right of passage from boyhood into manhood, leaving the patient with just one centimeter of his penis.

The December surgical process took nine hours, risking both the patient’s mental and physical health. Surgeons at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital say the operation mirrored the first stages of face transplants by connecting tiny blood vessels and nerves in the genital area.

One of the surgeons, Andre Van der Merwe, who normally performs kidney transplants, told the BBC News website: “This is definitely much more difficult, the blood vessels are 1.5 mm wide. In the kidney it can be 1 cm.”

While doctors expected the young man to endure a year-long recovery, the patient has been able to urinate, ejaculate, and orgasm successfully. Van der Merwe and other medical professionals say full sensation will come back to the penis in about two years.

They also added that an increase in penis transplants may come sooner rather than later. Hundreds of young men have either lost their genitals or died due to the circumcision ceremonies performed in South Africa.

The first penis transplant was performed in China, but the penis later rejected the body.

The operation also scales an ethical versus moral issue — many in the medical world see it as non-life saving, but Van der Merwe says the operation is just as important.

“You may say it doesn’t save their life, but many of these young men when they have penile amputations are ostracized, stigmatized and take their own life.”

“If you don’t have a penis you are essentially dead, if you give a penis back you can bring them back to life.”

Doctors are also hoping to use the operation on men who have faced extreme erectile dysfunction and men who have lost their genitals due to cancer. Nine other operations are also expected to happen in the near future.


Anything Is Possible: Doctors Successfully Complete First Penis Transplant In South Africa  was originally published on