The patient is "very happy and is not having any major side effects"
Credit: Courtesy Stellenbosch University

A team of South African surgeons claims they performed the world’s first successful penis transplant.

The nine-hour operation, led by Prof. André van der Merwe, head of the Division of Urology at Stellenbosch University, was performed on Dec. 11 at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town, the university announced Friday.

Initially, experts believed the 21-year-old patient would take two years to fully recover and function following the procedure. In fact, it took only four months.

“Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery,” van der Merwe said.

“It’s a massive breakthrough. We’ve proved that it can be done – we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had,” added Prof. Frank Graewe, head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at SU. “It was a privilege to be part of this first successful penis transplant in the world.”

The patient lost his penis in a botched circumcision three years prior. “For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic,” said van der Merwe. “He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this.”

He added: “There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision.”

Experts estimate that as many as 250 amputations occur per year in the country, the university reports.

The patient is “very happy and is not having any major side effects,” said van der Merwe.

The operation has been attempted once before, but this is the first time “a successful long-term result was achieved,” according to the university.