Mass General Performed the Nation’s First Penis Transplant

The recipient is a 64-year-old cancer survivor from Massachusetts.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Photo by Samantha Carey

Earlier this month, Massachusetts General Hospital made history, becoming the first hospital in the country to perform a penis transplant.

The recipient is Thomas Manning, a 64-year-old Halifax, Massachusetts, resident who lost his penis to cancer. About a week ago, Manning received the penis of a deceased donor in a 15-hour procedure, and is now recovering well. The operation was led by doctors Curtis Cetrulo and Dicken Ko.

With the so-far successful completion of the surgery, Mass General supplants Johns Hopkins, which announced plans to perform the nation’s first penis transplant late last year. Two other penis transplants have been performed globally—an ultimately unsuccessful procedure in China, and a successful operation in South Africa.

In an interview with the New York Times, Manning said he hopes speaking out about his experience will remove any stigma associated with the surgery and with penile injuries. “I want to go back to being who I was,” he told the Times. “Don’t hide behind a rock.”

Manning, like any transplant recipient, has a long road to recovery ahead of him, and it’s still possible that his body will reject the donor organ. Nonetheless, Cetrulo told the Times that Mass General’s surgical team is “cautiously optimistic.” If all goes well, Manning will have restored urinary function in a few weeks, and sexual function in a few weeks or months.

Mass General is reportedly planning another penis transplant, for a burn victim. That operation will move forward as soon as the hospital finds a donor match for the patient.

Mass General’s surgery adds to Boston’s already significant contributions to the transplant field. It all started in 1965, when Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) performed the first successful organ transplant, a kidney donation. Since then, BWH has been a pioneering force behind procedures including meniscus implants, face transplants, and hand transplants. Mass General, meanwhile, is at work on a process that would allow it to create bioartificial organs and limbs for transplantation.