Wounded US soldier soon to receive first US penis transplant

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First U.S. Penis Transplant Planned for Wounded Vet

A U.S. soldier wounded in an explosion will be the first person in the United States to receive a penis transplant, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital said, which could open the way for about 60 other servicemen with genital injuries to have this surgery.

Surgeons hope a donated organ from a recently deceased man will provide full function including urination, sensation and sex. The surgery requires joining nerves and blood vessels under a microscope.

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Doctors and advocates who work with wounded soldiers note that the loss of the penis is one of the most emotionally traumatic injuries because it affects a sense of identity and manhood, especially for men hoping to become fathers.

"When you meet these guys and you realize what they've given for the country, it makes a lot of sense," Dr. Richard Redett, a plastic surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital who will help perform the operation, told Reuters.

Related: See photos of the most extensive face transplant:

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Firefighter gets face transplant at NYU Langone medical center
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Wounded US soldier soon to receive first US penis transplant
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez displays images following the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical Center on November 16, 2015 in New York City. The procedure, during which the face of David Rodebaugh was transferred to Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi volunteer firefighter whose face was severely burned in a fire 14 years ago, took more than 24 hours and could cost more than one million dollars. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez displays an image from the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical Center on November 16, 2015 in New York City. The procedure, during which the face of David Rodebaugh was transferred to Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi volunteer firefighter whose face was severely burned in a fire 14 years ago, took more than 24 hours and could cost more than one million dollars. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez displays an image from the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical Center on November 16, 2015 in New York City. The procedure, during which the face of David Rodebaugh was transferred to Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi volunteer firefighter whose face was severely burned in a fire 14 years ago, took more than 24 hours and could cost more than one million dollars. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, MD, DDS, chair, Hansjorg Wyss Dept. Plastic Surgery, NYU Langone, poses with before and after photos of his patient Patrick Hardison during a press conference at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City November 16, 2015 to announce the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date. Dr. Rodriguez led the surgery following a year of preparation on the 41-year-old, a first responder horribly disfigured in 2001. More than 100 doctors, nurses, technical and support staff took part in the 26-hour operation, conducted in mid-August at the NYU Langone Medical Center, the center announced. Hardison, from Senatobia, Mississippi who suffered extensive facial burns as a volunteer firefighter, just days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Hardison was severely disfigured when the roof of a burning home collapsed on top of him during a rescue search, losing his eyelids, ears, lips, most of his nose, hair and eyebrows. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez displays an image from the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical Center on November 16, 2015 in New York City. The procedure, during which the face of David Rodebaugh was transferred to Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi volunteer firefighter whose face was severely burned in a fire 14 years ago, took more than 24 hours and could cost more than one million dollars. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez displays an image from the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical Center on November 16, 2015 in New York City. The procedure, during which the face of David Rodebaugh was transferred to Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi volunteer firefighter whose face was severely burned in a fire 14 years ago, took more than 24 hours and could cost more than one million dollars. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, MD, DDS, chair, Hansjorg Wyss Dept. Plastic Surgery, NYU Langone, holds a press conference at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City November 16, 2015 to announce the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date. Dr. Rodriguez led the surgery following a year of preparation on a 41-year-old first responder horribly disfigured in 2001. More than 100 doctors, nurses, technical and support staff took part in the 26-hour operation, conducted in mid-August at the NYU Langone Medical Center, the center announced. The recipient was Patrick Hardison(on screen), from Senatobia, Mississippi who suffered extensive facial burns as a volunteer firefighter, just days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Hardison was severely disfigured when the roof of a burning home collapsed on top of him during a rescue search, losing his eyelids, ears, lips, most of his nose, hair and eyebrows. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez announces the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical Center on November 16, 2015 in New York City. The procedure, during which the face of David Rodebaugh was transferred to Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi volunteer firefighter whose face was severely burned in a fire 14 years ago, took more than 24 hours and could cost more than one million dollars. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
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The recipient, who was not identified, lost most of his penis and had substantial groin injuries in a bomb explosion while deployed overseas. Media reports have said he was wounded in Afghanistan.

The surgery could occur in the coming weeks. Doctors are looking for a donor who is a good match in terms of age and skin color. The donor's family will need to give permission for the penis to be removed.

There have been two penis transplants in the world. The first in China in 2006 was unsuccessful. The second in South Africa in 2014 was a success.

Thor Wold, who served as a Marine medic in the Iraq war and now works as an advocate for veterans, said that after suffering genital injuries servicemen immediately wanted to know if they would still have sexual function.

"They would ask, 'Is everything OK down there, doc? My wife's at home and we're trying to have a baby when I get back,'" Wold told Reuters.

Redett said a veteran suffering from a blast injury could need to have not just his penis replaced but also the scrotum, part of the abdominal wall, groin tissue and part of the inner thigh.

"We've sorted out how to take that block of tissue from a donor and give it to a recipient," he said.

The penis transplant does not involve the testes, where sperm are produced, so if a man with a transplanted penis does father a child, the baby would be his genetic offspring, not the donor's.

While for now only wounded veterans are being considered for penis transplants, the surgery could eventually be performed on men with birth defects and transgender men and women.

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