Man who lost his penis to cancer gets first transplant in the US

Thomas Manning
Thomas Manning

A cancer patient has received the first penis transplant in the United States and is recovering well from the delicate surgery, according to doctors.

Thomas Manning of Halifax, Massachusetts, received the transplanted penis in a 15-hour procedure last week, Massachusetts General Hospital said. The organ was transplanted from a deceased donor.

Surgeons on the team who performed the transplant say blood is flowing to the organ. They said there are no signs of bleeding, rejection or infection, and that they are cautiously optimistic Mr Manning will regain the function he lost in 2012 when cancer led to an amputation of the penis.

"Today I begin a new chapter filled with personal hope and hope for others who have suffered genital injuries," Mr Manning said on Monday.

Most of Mr Manning's penis was removed amid a battle with an aggressive and potentially fatal penile cancer. The cancer was discovered in 2012 after the bank courier was severely injured in a work accident. Doctors treating him found an abnormal growth on his penis.

Mr Manning told reporters he experienced hardly any pain during and after the procedure. One serious complication came the day after the surgery when he was rushed to the operating room after beginning to haemorrhage. He said his recovery has been smoother since, but he still was not ready to take a close look at the transplant.

Mr Manning, who is single and was not involved with anyone when the cancer was discovered, said the amputation made new relationships impossible.

He told reporters he looks forward to going back to work and hopes to have a love life again. He said he is speaking out in order to help dispel a stigma associated with cancers and injuries affecting the genitals.

The donor penis came from the New England Organ Bank. It said the donor's family wished to remain anonymous, but had delivered well wishes to Mr Manning.

It took three years of preparation, including operations on dead bodies, before the team was ready to perform transplants.

Such operations are being studied as a way of treating wounded servicemen.

Dr Curtis Cetrulo said his team is likely perfect its technique on civilians before providing transplants for injured veterans. He said the US Defence Department does not "like to have wounded warriors undergo unproven techniques".

Dr Dicken Ko, who directs the hospital's urology programme, said candidates for future transplants will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. They will be limited to cancer and trauma patients for now, and will not be offered to transgender people.

Another transplant is planned as soon as a matching donor becomes available for a patient whose penis was destroyed by burns in a car accident, Dr Cetrulo said.

The world's first penis transplant was performed at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa in December 2014.

That patient had his penis amputated three years earlier after complications from a circumcision performed in his late teens.

The university near Cape Town said in announcing the transplant in March 2015 that the 21-year-old patient, whose name was not released, made a full recovery following the nine-hour surgery and regained all function in the transplanted organ.

A man in China received a penis transplant in 2005. That operation also appeared to be successful, but doctors said the man asked them to remove his new penis two weeks later because of psychological problems experienced by he and his wife.