The Fantastic Foreskin: Under the Knife

Surgeons not rushing to put back what they took away

If in transgender surgical procedures doctors can turn a penis into a vagina, why can't they give a guy back his foreskin?

While there are accounts of surgical restoration, virtually all restoring organizations do not recommend it. The National Organization for the Restoration of Men (NORM) warns against surgery because "of the poor results and high cost, not to mention the risks associated with yet another surgery of the penis."

In The Joy of Uncircumcising!, the restoring man's bible, author Jim Bigelow includes testimony of surgical restoration patient John Strand.

Strand, of San Antonio, writes that he was the victim of a botched circumcision that left him with painful bumps and holes around the scar lines. The head of his penis often bled when it rubbed against his underwear. After seeing some uncircumcised boys, the young Strand tried desperately to pull his existing skin forward over his glans. The problem followed him into adulthood, but he writes that he was brushed off by doctors.

Until, that is, he was finally referred to Dr. Don Greer of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio's Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Greer didn't rush to do the surgery, but didn't send Strand away either. In May 1977, Strand went under the knife. Greer grafted a patch of skin from Strand's scrotum onto his shaft. After undergoing four more procedures, Strand writes, "there is some return of gross feeling in the graft, although by no means is it the equivalent of a natural foreskin."

Thirty years later, the procedure doesn't appear to have changed much. In 2006, Canadian Paul Tinari petitioned the British Columbia Ministry of Health to subsidize restoration for a botched circumcision. The Ministry paid "90 percent of the $12,000" tab to graft scrotal skin to his shaft, according to the National Review of Medicine.

While the physician who performed Tinari's surgeries claimed a success rate of 80-90 percent, NORM sets the rate at 60-70 percent and states that surgery can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000.

The Circumcision Information and Resource Pages Web site — a sort of clearinghouse for anti-circ organizations, states: "Surgical foreskin reconstruction procedures have been developed by several surgeons. Surgical reconstruction can be expensive and painful. Numerous complications have been reported. However, some men have reported satisfaction with it. Nonsurgical restoration is generally considered safer and to give superior results as compared to a surgical procedure."

In addition, Doctors Opposing Circumcision states on its Web site: "Surgical restoration has not proved to be satisfactory and DOC recommends surgical restoration be avoided. We recommend stretching techniques, rather than surgery, which may include grafts. Stretching causes permanent tissue expansion gradually over time."

 
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