A wounded military veteran is slated to be the first U.S. recipient of a penis transplant, according to doctors at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
If successful, the patient could have urinary and sexual function restored.
Last year, South African doctors performed the first penis transplant on a patient who had received a botched circumcision. Several months after the surgery, the patient was reportedly able to have an erection, allowing him to eventually father a child.
The transplant penis will come from a young deceased male, doctors said.
“It’s nice to be able to say this is finally becoming a reality,” Dr. Richard Redett, one of the eight Hopkins surgeons on the team, told the Baltimore Sun newspaper.
For the U.S. surgery, a team of 25 to 30 will be involved in the tricky 12-hour procedure that will require the careful stitching of blood vessels and nerves.
As is the case with other transplant surgeries, there is a risk of rejection and infection. Some anti-rejection drugs can cause serious side effects.
Johns Hopkins doctors say they eventually plan to provide penis transplants to 60 injured veterans as part of a trial. According to the BBC, research indicates that up to seven percent of combat veterans suffer genital injuries, many from blasts from improvised explosive devices.
The recipients will be monitored for five years to determine the efficacy of the operation.
Carisa Cooney, clinical research manager at JHU, told the BBC that they had been preparing for the surgery and dealing with the ethical questions such a surgery could bring up.
"For the right patients this can really improve their quality of life and help them re-enter society," she said.