Well, the team pulled it off in December of 2014. But it's now being deemed "successful" because a "long-term result was achieved." The first attempt at a penile transplant happened back in 2006 in China, but the procedure had to be reversed. That makes this transplant the first successful one in history.
And the patient is doing even better than expected:
"Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery," said Prof André van der Merwe, head of Stellenbosch University's Division of Uroloy. "It's a massive breakthrough. We've proved that it can be done – we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had. It was a privilege to be part of this first successful penis transplant in the world."
The patient is expected to gain back all urinary and reproductive functions.
So, what happened to the guy's original penis?
Apparently, the 21-year-old had his penis amputated when he developed life-threatening complications from a circumcision.
"There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision," explains Van der Merwe. "This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn't necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men."
Authorities estimate about 250 similar cases per year in the country.
Of course, this surgery has implications outside of South Africa. The University says that it could help men who've lost their penises from cancer, or as a "last ditch" effort combat erectile disfunction.
Have fun getting your insurance to cover that.