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South African doctor inundated with penis-transplant requests

IANS  |  Johannesburg 

A South African doctor, who performed the world's first penile transplant, has been inundated with requests from around the world for such surgeries.

In addition to South Africa, such requests have come in from countries like the US, Colombia and Russia, Andre van der Merwe told Xinhua news agency.

"I had a request from someone in the States who wanted his penis removed," said Van der Merwe who has been invited to the US next month to give a presentation on the surgery.

He said that although there were a number of people with dysfunctional penises in South Africa, "some are still not willing to come forward and have a surgery done on their penises".

"It'll take time before many people can come forward," he added.

Van der Merwe led a team of doctors in performing the first successful penile transplant in the world late last year at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town.

This is the second time that this type of procedure was attempted, but the first time in history that a successful long-term result was achieved.

The 21-year-old patient, whose identity is being protected for ethical reasons, has made a full recovery and has regained all functions in the newly transplanted organ. The patient's original penis had been amputated after a botched circumcision three years ago.

"He (the patient) has made a full recovery and has regained all functions in the newly transplanted organ," Van der Merwe said. "The skin texture of the donor matched the colour of the transplanted penis to the recipient's pigmentation."

The successful surgery will enable the man to become sexually active and retain the potential to father children.

Despite challenges that may arise, the patient would fully recover in 2017, Van der Merwe said.

"I salute the donor and his family for participating in the procedure. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis," Van der Merwe said.

The South African medical world has been upbeat about the scientific breakthrough.

"As a doctor, I'm very proud of this achievement. It shows South Africa is a force to reckon with in the medical field," Neil Parker, a private doctor at Medi-clinic in Johannesburg, told Xinhua.

"From a social point of view, penile dysfunction and disfigurement have a major adverse psychological effect on men. One's chances of having a child are zero. Now with this surgery, the young man has been given a life line," Parker said.

Many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision, according to Parker.

This breakthrough is particularly good news for many South African men whose penises become dysfunctional after botched circumcision.

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First Published: Mon, March 23 2015. 19:56 IST