As the world adopts new technology, surgeons in South Africa remain at the forefront of medical progress after conducting the first successful penile transplant. On December 11, 2014, a team of 11 medical practitioners from Cape Town's Stellenbosch University and experienced surgeons from Tygerberg Hospital performed the world's first penile transplant.
The 9-hour operation was the first successful attempt after previous failed operations in hospitals worldwide. For instance, surgeons in China conducted a penile transplant, but the patient's body later rejected the organ.
Although they did not publicly announce the December 11, 2014, surgery, they were confident that the operation would be successful. On March 13, 2015, the Stellenbosch University medical department announced the long-awaited news of a successful transplant.
The 21-year-old, among at least 250 South Africans suffering 250 penile amputations, was expected to be fully functional after the ground-breaking operation. Before this surgery, penile amputations remained a problem for young men of 18 or 19 years in South Africa. Those without the psychological capacity to withstand the traumatic experience of losing their penis after complications from traditional circumcision become suicide victims. Therefore, the medical team believed this medical breakthrough was significant for those experiencing penile dysfunction and disfigurement.
The procedure was a pilot experiment designed for a typical South African setting. As a result, the doctors used the same microscopic surgery in the first facial transplant to connect the nerves and small blood vessels in the penile transplant. Van der Merwe, the lead surgeon in the ground-breaking surgery, remained confident that they could eventually extend the procedure to help cancer patients who lose their penises.