BOSTON (CBS) – A man from Halifax has become the first person to receive a penis transplant in the United States, Massachusetts General Hospital announced Monday.
Thomas Manning, 64, underwent the 15-hour transplant operation, called a genitourinary vascularized composite allograft (GUVCA) transplant, earlier this month.
“Our courageous patient, Thomas Manning, continues to do well, and we are optimistic about this outcome and future,” said Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, who helped lead the surgical team along with Dr. Dicken Ko, at a press conference Monday morning.
Cetrulo said that due to penile cancer most of Manning’s organ had been removed during a procedure in 2012 known as a penile penectomy.
“He’s doing well so far,” Cetrulo said. “I just spoke to him this morning, he’s up and about and out of bed.”
The replacement came from a deceased donor through the New England Organ Bank.
“The surgical part, we feel, has been successful,” said Cetrulo. “But this is an allograph, it’s from an unrelated individual, and that requires immunosuppression for life, basically, until we can conquer that problem with immunologic tolerance research.”
The hospital said the three purposes of the procedure were to “reconstruct external genitalia to a more natural appearance, re-establish urinary function, and potentially achieve sexual function.”
“We want form and function,” says Dr. Dicken Ko. “Not only is it important to have an organ there but we want function.”
Doctors will continue to monitor Manning closely for rejection, always a risk, but if successful, this could give new hope to other patients with penile cancer or to victims of trauma like soldiers wounded in battle.
Dr. Cetrulo said he was hopeful the experimental procedure would eventually be offered to others.
“We’re hopeful that with these successes going forward we’ll be able to open this up to other patient populations such as wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer these incredibly devastating injuries that can leave them so despondent that they consider taking their own lives, and often do,” said Cetrulo.
Cetrulo said Manning talks to others who suffered genital loss, and wants to use his voice to help dispel stigmas associated with cancers and injuries that affect the genitals.
“His outlook is he wants to share this technology with others who need it,” said Cetrulo, who noted the psychological effects of genital loss could be overwhelming.
“There are many patients that Dr. Cetrulo and I have taken care of together who have lost their external genitalia from trauma and cancers,” Dr. Ko said during the press conference. “These courageous survivors have often left with a very abnormal urinary system, a loss of sexual function, and ultimately, a loss of self-identity.”
Manning is expected to remain at MGH for another three to four days. His doctors are cautiously optimistic that normal urination and sexual function will be possible in the weeks and months ahead.
“When you take something away so personal, what makes a man feel like a man, it’s a very difficult thing for people deal with,” says Dr. Adam Feldman, a urologist at MGH, “But to give him back some sense of that, I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
In a statement read by his physician at the press conference Monday, Manning thanked the team at Mass. General, saying they “quite literally saved my life.”
“Today I begin a new chapter filled with personal hope and hope for others who have suffered genital injuries, particularly for our service members who put their lives on the line and suffer serious damage as a result,” Manning wrote in the statement. “In sharing this success with all of you, it’s my hope we can usher in a bright future for this type of transplantation.”
The hospital said the procedure was 3 1/2 years in the making, and that Ko and Cetrulo had begun working on it shortly after Cetrulo was involved in the first hand transplant operation in 2012. Cetrulo said a lot of what surgeons learned during that hand transplant was used in this procedure.
In a statement, the family of the donor, who remains anonymous, said they were “delighted to hear [Manning’s] recovery is going well and are praying that his recovery continues.”
This is the third transplant of its kind in the world. The first was in China in 2005 but the organ was removed two weeks later. In 2015 in South Africa a 21-year old patient made a full recovery and regained all function in the transplanted organ.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Doug Cope reports
WBZ-TV’s Dr. Mallika Marshall contributed to this report.