Troops Suffer Sex Organ Injuries at 'Unprecedented' Rate

At Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., researchers are bioengineering a replacement penis grown from a patient’s own cells.
At Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., researchers are bioengineering a replacement penis grown from a patient’s own cells.

U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have sustained life-altering injuries to sex organs in numbers never before seen in warfare, according to a report released this week.

The Journal of Urology report on data compiled by the Defense Department showed that from October 2001 to August 2013, 1,367 male U.S. service members sustained one or more genitourinary (GU) injuries.

The report, titled "Epidemiology of Genitourinary Injuries among Male U.S. Service Members Deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan," states, "The majority of injuries involved the external genitalia, including the scrotum, testes, penis and urethra."

In seeking to explain the "unprecedented number" of GU injuries, the report notes the increased survival rates from improved battlefield medical care.

Those with GU wounds who would have died in previous wars are now surviving, meaning there are now "more service members surviving with GU injuries than ever before in the history of war," it said.

The report, based on data from the DoD's Trauma Outcomes and Urogenital Health (TOUGH) Project, said that about 73 percent of the 1,367 injuries were to the external genitalia, including the scrotum, testes and penis.

The GU injuries were mainly caused by the improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, that have been the signature enemy weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report found. The majority of those injured also are junior enlisted under the age of 30 from the Army and the Marine Corps, the report said.

"Further study is needed to describe the long-term impact of genitourinary injury and determine the potential need for novel treatments to improve sexual, urinary and/or reproductive function among service members with severe genital injury," the report said.

Research on penis transplants is in the early stages, but a reportedly successful penis transplant was conducted last May at Massachusetts General Hospital. More than 60 U.S. troops with GU injuries are now on waiting lists.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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