Review of Evaluation of surgical procedures for sex reassignment: a systematic review

This is a 2007 review of research on gender reassignment surgery. It shows clearly that we need more research in this area.

The research is not strong enough to evaluate the efficacy of gender reassignment surgery in general. In addition, we do not have a way to evaluate particular surgeries.

From the abstract:

“The evidence concerning gender reassignment surgery in both MTF and FTM transsexism has several limitations in terms of: (a) lack of controlled studies, (b) evidence has not collected data prospectively, (c) high loss to follow up and (d) lack of validated assessment measures. Some satisfactory outcomes were reported, but the magnitude of benefit and harm for individual surgical procedures cannot be estimated accurately using the current available evidence.”

The authors reviewed all the articles they could find on gender reassignment surgeries from 1980 onwards. The review took place in October and November 2005.

The great strength of this review is that they looked at individual surgical procedures. Too often studies lump together all gender reassignment surgeries and then evaluate whether or not they were effective. It is possible that some surgeries are more helpful for people’s mental well-being than others. In addition, some surgeries may have better physical outcomes or fewer risks than others. The physical outcomes could certainly affect people’s mental well being as well.

They did not find enough good studies looking at individual surgeries; there is a great need for more such studies. We need to know what are the complications and problems with various surgeries. Are some techniques better than others? Do some medical centers have better physical outcomes than others?

Only a few of the studies reported on patients’ well-being, mental health, or satisfaction; these studies had the same methodological weaknesses as the others.

This is the main finding of the review – we don’t have great data and we need further research. You can read more about some of the specific surgical procedures here.

The authors discuss the quality of research and directions for future research; I have included their discussion below.

Discussion

In the first section concerning MTF surgical procedures, 38 published papers met the inclusion criteria (23 case series and 15 case studies) with an additional 13 papers excluded (four case series, three case studies, four reviews, one prospective non-randomized controlled study, one expert opinion). The level of included evidence was of poor quality. There was a clear lack of randomized controlled evidence and only one excluded study included a control group comparison. No studies met the inclusion criteria for labiaplasty, orchidectomy or penectomy procedures. A large amount of evidence is available reporting vaginoplasty and clitoroplasty procedures. Some complications have been reported. All the studies report, to various degrees, satisfactory outcomes in terms of being able to have penetrative sexual intercourse and achieving sexual fulfilment.

In the second section concerning FTM surgical procedures, 44 published papers met the inclusion criteria (26 case series, 17 case studies, one cohort study) with an additional 19 papers being excluded (seven reviews, five expert opinions, four case series, three case studies). The majority of included evidence was of poor quality. Many of the studies reported good satisfactory outcomes with few complications for each of the individual procedures. The main outcomes reported were the ability to perform penetrative sexual intercourse and achieve orgasm. Another key factor requested by many FTM patients was the ability to void whilst standing. Whilst successful results were reported by many studies for phalloplasty procedures, an inability to perform sexual penetration due to the construction of a small phallus was a common problem reported following the metoidioplasty procedure. Some of the FTM core surgical procedures are frequently completed along with other surgery, making it difficult to assess the effectiveness of each procedure alone. Furthermore, the assessment of effectiveness is also confounded by the lack of controlled evidence, unclear outcome measures, and a reliance on case series and case studies.

Six previous reviews have reported the clinical effectiveness of GRS. Six reviewed evidence in MTF patients and three of these also reviewed evidence in FTM patients. Of these, three were systematic reviews. These earlier reviews provide a summary of approximately 172 individual studies. Two recent unpublished reports provided a brief summary of some of the reviews. Several key points were raised in these previous reviews. The first related to the quality of the evidence and study design. Concerns were raised about the lack of randomized controlled evidence, the majority of evidence involved case studies and case series, with few studies using group comparisons, standardized measures or the follow up of participants. A second concern related to the validity of findings. Many studies involved a combination of different surgical procedures. Thirdly, there was concern about the validity of outcome measures. Despite many reports of positive outcomes of patients, there was little consensus of how to measure effectiveness. The large range of outcomes reported across studies makes it difficult to accurately evaluate the overall outcomes of individual surgical procedures.

Several previous reviews reported a controlled study which compared 20 patients having immediate surgery with 20 patients awaiting surgery for penectomy, orchidectomy and the construction of a neovagina. The remaining studies reflect lower grades of evidence, and had further problems in their design such as selected patient groups, retrospective analysis and losses to follow up. Conclusions from the reviews are understandably tentative, but highlight improvements in patients across most studies, although 10–15% of patients with transsexism who undergo GRS have poor outcomes.

The quality of evidence included in this review has been poor due to the lack of concealment of allocation, completeness of follow up and blinding. As well as the fundamental limitation in study design, several other issues regarding the interpretation of the evidence are worth consideration. Firstly, all the reviews, and many of the individual studies within them, examine different types of GRS. The Mate-Kole study, for example, is essentially an evaluation of three surgical techniques. Clearly, trying to reach a robust conclusion about GRS as a whole is not possible when the combination of techniques varies across studies. Secondly, the patient populations within, and across studies, are heterogeneous and we have little idea about the referral, diagnosis, assessment and selection processes that precede inclusion within the studies. Consequently, Brown concludes that a lengthy differential diagnosis and a specialized approach to interviewing gender dysphoric patients are needed. Thirdly, the choice of outcome measures varies across studies, with very little use of validated health-related quality of life (QOL) measures. This complicates further our ability to draw conclusions, and also limits the commissioners’ ability to identify studies that use outcomes that are relevant to their role. Finally this review has focused on a subset of surgical procedures that are used within this field. Whilst these are considered to be the most routine, it is recognized that other procedures are currently used and these too need to be critically appraised in future reviews.

No published evidence on cost-effectiveness was found. Best and Stein speculate that some cost offsets are possible following surgery due to the reduced need for psychiatric and hormonal treatment, but no evidence is available for this. The lack of generic QOL measures means that measures of cost-effectiveness that can be used to assess value for money relative to other healthcare interventions are not possible.

When trying to consider all of the evidence together, there is a dilemma regarding its interpretation. Reviews of heterogeneous patient groups and interventions clearly give the greatest depth of evidence, but give little in the way of specific information that is of use to purchasers. In contrast, studies of individual techniques have a more limited evidence base but allow us to focus on specific clinical questions with more consistent reporting. But these provide information on purchasing decisions that are less realistic, as some procedures are unlikely to be purchased in isolation. In between these extremes, are sets of studies that investigate various combinations of multiple procedures, but matching these studies to the activity of different providers and patients, is extremely complex.

Taking this reasoning further, some would argue that assessment of GRS in isolation is difficult to interpret, as it is the final step in a longer treatment process. This is more contentious, as many patients do not reach the point of referral for surgery and many do not wish to undergo any surgery. Also, taking this argument to its extreme would require studies of the effectiveness of treatment from initial diagnosis to the end of post-surgical follow up; such studies do not exist.

Despite these difficulties in interpretation of review evidence the conclusion about the strength of evidence regarding GRS appears clear: little robust evidence exists.

Future research

There is a need for good quality controlled trials based on clearly defined diagnosis and assessment criteria.

An important consideration for future studies is how best to evaluate the effectiveness of a surgical procedure. One possibility is assessment of patient satisfaction and regret following surgery. More importantly is the need for standardised measures to assess the outcome of surgery. One suitable method, which has received limited research, is the use of QOL measures in samples before and after GRS. Rakic et al. investigated several aspects of QOL after GRS in 32 patients with transsexism (22 MTF, 10 FTM). Four aspects of QOL were examined: sexual activity; attitude towards the patients’ own body; relationships with other people; and occupational functioning. For the majority of persons with transsexism, QOL improved after surgery in terms of these aspects. All patients (100%) were satisfied with their GRS. However, only 20 patients (62%) were satisfied with how their bodies looked. In a study by Barrett, they used the General Health Questionnaire and assessments of depression inpatient groups. More controlled studies using this type of experimental design are needed to provide a better measure of surgical effectiveness.

For many patients undergoing GRS, their desire is to look ‘normal’ and be capable of having a normal sexual relationship. The results presented in this review have provided little evidence on how successful individual surgical procedures are in achieving these goals. Further research is needed to investigate these specific outcome measures of satisfaction and function.

In conclusion, we have confirmed the findings from previous reviews that the evidence to support GRS has several limitations in terms of: (a) lack of controlled studies; (b) evidence has not collected data prospectively; (c) high loss to follow up; and (d) lack of validated assessment measures. We have extended these findings from previous reviews by providing a summary of the evidence available for each of the ‘core’ procedures for MTF and FTM transsexism. In the majority of studies a large number of persons with transsexism experience a successful outcome in terms of subjective well being, cosmesis, and sexual function. We conclude that the magnitude of benefit and harm cannot be estimated accurately using the current available evidence.

Original Source:

Evaluation of surgical procedures for sex reassignment: a systematic review by Sutcliffe PA, Dixon S, Akehurst RL, Wilkinson A, Shippam A, White S, Richards R, Caddy CM in J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2009 Mar;62(3):294-306.

Evaluation of surgical procedures for sex reassignment: a systematic review – information on specific surgeries

This is a 2007 review of research on gender reassignment surgery. The authors found that there was not enough strong research to evaluate gender reassignment surgery; you can read more about the study as a whole here. This article looks more at specific surgical procedures.

The authors of the review evaluated individual surgical procedures rather than just looking at the outcome of all gender reassignment surgeries together. This allows a better understanding of which procedures are the most effective. It also means excluding some studies that looked at more than one procedure.

The authors reviewed all the articles they could find on specific gender reassignment surgeries from 1980 onwards. The review took place in October and November 2005.

The following are some of the results they found for specific surgeries. There is not enough data to definitively evaluate particular procedures and techniques, but there is useful information on possible complications. Clearly, however, we need more research.

Surgeries for Trans Women (born male)

Clitoroplasty/neoclitoris construction – The authors reviewed three studies that used a range of surgical techniques. The results were generally good but in one study 2 out of 10 patients had necrosis of the neoclitoris; in another study three out of nine patients did not report sexual satisfaction.

“All three included papers reported successful results in terms of function and cosmetic appearance with few or no complications (e.g. urine leakage). Rehman and Melman reported that the neoclitoris had remained intact postoperatively in eight out of 10 patients and the functional and cosmetic appearance was comparable to a normal clitoris. In two patients, however, the results were not satisfactory because of necrosis of the neoclitoris.

Using the dorsal portion of the glans penis with the dorsal neurovascular pedicle for clitoroplasty, the neoclitorides in nine patients survived well, and six patients reported sexual satisfaction. However, the transpositioning of glans on the long dorsal neurovascular pedicle appears to be a procedure with high risks. Overall, several studies have reported that the neoclitoris construction can result in good preservation of light touch and sexual sensation.

Vaginoplasty/neovagina construction – The authors reviewed 32 studies. Satisfactory cosmetic and functional results were reported in many of the studies, although one found that “vaginoplasty combining inversion of the penile and scrotal skin flaps produced poor functional outcomes.” 

One study reported some severe complications.

A 2001 study from Germany reported that “major complications during, immediately and after surgery occurred in nine of the 66 patients (14%), including necrosis of the distal urethra (n = 1), necrosis of the glans (n = 3), a rectal lesion (n = 3), and severe wound infections (n = 6).”  

In addition, according to the abstract of the 2001 study, “Minor complications, e.g. meatal stenosis in seven patients, occurred in 24 (36%) of patients. Ten patients with insufficient penile skin had the phallic cylinder augmented with a free-skin mesh graft, but in three of these patients an ileal augmentation was finally constructed because scarring occurred at the suture line between the penile skin and the augmented graft.”

At the same time, 47% of the patients in the 2001 study completed a follow-up questionnaire and almost all of them reported that they were “satisfied with the cosmetic result and capacity for orgasm.” Over half of the people who answered the follow-up questionnaire had had sexual intercourse. It is not clear if the satisfied group included the people who had had complications.

It would be good to have more information to compare to the German results. Are these rates of complications normal?

The reviewers did not find studies that met their criteria for labiaplasty, orchidectomy, or penectomy.

Surgeries for Trans Men (born female)

Hysterectomy – The authors only reviewed one study that met their criteria; it reported successful operations for two trans men. The study also reported that “a laparoscopic hysterectomy using the McCartney tube for FTM GRS was a useful procedure in overcoming difficulties encountered due to restricted vaginal access.”

Mastectomy – The authors reviewed three studies: “Colic and Colic found the use of a circumareolar approach for subcutaneous mastectomy produced flatter masculine breasts, leaving sufficient dermal vascularization for the nipple-areola complex. Of the 12 FTM patients all were very satisfied with the outcomes of surgery mainly because of the periareolar scar. It was reported, however, that two areolar necroses occurred due to perforation of the thin vascular dermal pedicle.”

Metoidioplasty – The authors reviewed two studies.

In the first, the procedure was successful for 32 patients with an average hospital stay of 11 days. One patient had a severe haematoma (solid swelling of clotted blood), but there were no other complications.

In the second study, 17 patients were satisfied with the size and appearance of their penis, but 5 people required additional augmentation phalloplasty. In two cases, the trans men developed urethral stenosis (narrowing of the urethra) and in three cases they developed fistula. The complications were related to the urethroplasty.

The reviewers add: “The metoidioplasty procedure produces a very small phallus (e.g. mean = 5.7 cm, range = 4–10 cm), hardly capable of sexual penetration, if at all. Only 10 of the 32 patients were able to void whilst standing. It should be noted that in the study by Hage et al, 18 patients combined the metoidioplasty procedure with the construction of a bifid scrotum in which testicular prostheses were implanted. Overall these two studies found metoidioplasty was an appropriate method where the clitoris seems large enough to provide a phallus and satisfies the patient.”

Phalloplasty – There is only limited data on the outcomes of phalloplasty, although two studies reported good outcomes in terms of size and stiffness and one reported good psychological outcomes.

However, there are a range of procedures and they have mixed results.

Serious complications have been reported and phalloplasty leaves a scar somewhere on the body.

One study found that creating the neourethra in two stages could reduce complications.

Another study using a suprapubic abdominal wall flap produced a good cosmetic appearance for 68% of the people; presumably 32% of the trans men had phalluses that did not look as good. A small study of using a lateral arm free flap reported good results.

“There appear to be limited data on outcome measures, including social integration, patient satisfaction and physiological function. Good operative results have been reported in terms of appropriate size and stiffness without vascular compromise and in terms of psychological outcomes. In addition to an aesthetically appealing look either while being nude (81%) or wearing a tight swim suit (91%), to void whilst standing appears to be an important goal for many FTM patients. It is important to recognize that there are a range of phalloplasty procedures available with mixed findings being reported in terms of effectiveness. Hage et al. reported several serious complications such as vesicovaginal, urethrovaginal fistulas and urinary incontinence. Furthermore, unlike the metoidioplasty procedure, free flap phalloplasty techniques produce extensive scarring to the donor site, unless techniques such as tissue expansion are used. Of the 85 FTM patients who had a phalloplasty fashioned from suprapubic abdominal wall flap that was tubed to form the phallus, Bettocchi et al. reported the cosmetic appearance of the phallus was considered good in 68% of the patients. Major complications (n = 60) were associated with the neourethra (75%), stricture formation (64%) and/or fistulae (55%). It should be noted that the complication rates found by Bettocchi et al. were significantly less (P < 0.001) when the neourethra was created in two stages. In contrast, Khouri et al. concluded by using a prefabricated lateral arm free flap technique it is possible to achieve a fully functional penis with stable long-term results and excellent patient satisfaction.”

Scrotoplasty/scrotum construction/testicular prosthesis – The authors reviewed two studies that met their criteria. “This procedure is generally accomplished by hollowing out the labia majora, inserting silicone implants, and attaching the labia to develop a single scrotal sac. Implant expulsion, rupture or dislocation is encountered in a small number of patients.”

Urethroplasty – The authors did not find any studies that met their criteria, but they reported that “A one-stage total phalloplasty and urethroplasty was associated with a significant rate of fistulas and strictures.”

The authors did not find studies that met their criteria for Salpingo-oophorectomy or vaginectomy/vaginal closure.

The authors conclude that “There is a need for good quality controlled trials based on clearly defined diagnosis and assessment criteria.”

And, “we have confirmed the findings from previous reviews that the evidence to support GRS has several limitations in terms of: (a) lack of controlled studies; (b) evidence has not collected data prospectively; (c) high loss to follow up; and (d) lack of validated assessment measures. We have extended these findings from previous reviews by providing a summary of the evidence available for each of the ‘core’ procedures for MTF and FTM transsexism. In the majority of studies a large number of persons with transsexism experience a successful outcome in terms of subjective well being, cosmesis, and sexual function. We conclude that the magnitude of benefit and harm cannot be estimated accurately using the current available evidence.”

I have included more of their discussion in my review  here.

Original Source:

Evaluation of surgical procedures for sex reassignment: a systematic review by Sutcliffe PA, Dixon S, Akehurst RL, Wilkinson A, Shippam A, White S, Richards R, Caddy CM in J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2009 Mar;62(3):294-306.

Review of Gender reassignment surgery: an overview

This article is a good summary of surgeries used in medical transition. It is not a study or review of studies, but it is written by two experienced surgeons from the United Kingdom. They provide some numbers related to complications and some valuable information on specific techniques.

It is important to remember that this is not a scientific study or survey; it is a report by surgeons based on their experience. The results in other clinics may be different. If you are seeking surgery, ask your doctor about their work.

The authors’ discussion of sexual pleasure and orgasm is very limited. They do not discuss patient satisfaction. They do not look at the mental health effects of surgery, either, just the physical outcomes.

As always, there are many areas where we do not yet have any studies and we don’t know the answer. We could use more studies and articles about the various techniques, their outcomes, and their complications. Any evaluation of these techniques should include patient satisfaction and sexual function.

So what are the physical outcomes and complications of various surgeries that the authors discuss?

SURGERIES FOR TRANS WOMEN

Some Complications and Risks, Vaginoplasty

Death from pulmonary embolism – 1 in 1000 among recent patients at their clinic.

Pulmonary embolism (blood clot that travels to the lungs) – 2 in 1000 among recent patients at their clinic. The length of the surgery makes blood clots a problem; this clinic works to reduce them.

“MtF surgery can be complicated by all the normal nonspecific complications of major surgery. For instance, venous thromboembolic disease is a particular problem, partly owing to the nature of the operation (pelvic surgery), the prolonged duration of the operation (5 h in some units) and the practice, which is still common, of keeping patients on bed rest for several days after the operation. In our unit, the operative time is reliably in the region of 120–150 min and patients are mobilized immediately after surgery to reduce the risk of thromboembolism. Combined with routine use of low-­molecularweight heparins and compression stockings, we have seen only two pulmonary emboli in the last 1,000 MtF surgical procedures (one of which was fatal).”

Clinically significant bleeding – At least 10%. Most of the bleeding is from the “corpus spongiosum surrounding the urethra.”

“Specific to the operation itself, the most common complication of MtF surgery is bleeding. In units with large numbers, labial hematomas are seldom seen, but do occasionally occur. Most may be managed conservatively, but they do result in an increased incidence of wound dehiscence [opening up along the incision], as observed in our institution. The principle source of postoperative hemorrhage is from the corpus spongiosum surrounding the urethra. Even with meticulous suturing, some 10% of patients will experience clinically significant bleeds. This bleeding may be reduced by leaving the postoperative pressure dressing in place for longer, but that in turn can inhibit patient mobilization and may result in increased risk of thromboembolism.”

Fistula (hole) between the rectum and vagina – 6 in 800 at their clinic in 2008 – the numbers are unknown in general and possibly “seriously under-reported.” The cause is unknown.

Fistuals frequently require further surgery and sometimes lead to the removal of the neovagina.

“When a fistula occurs, a defunctioning colostomy is usually needed. About 50% of fistulas will then close spontaneously, but in the remainder further surgery is needed. In difficult cases, removal of the neovagina may be required.”

Narrowing of the urethra – 3-4% minimum rate. This problem causes “dribbling incontinence.” The narrowing develops a few months after the operation and requires surgery. The surgery is usually effective – “although a few do go on to long-term intermittent catheterization.”

Loss of vaginal depth and width – The authors give no numbers, but believe that these complications are under-reported. The loss of depth could be due to loss of skin; in this case a new vaginoplasty is required using using tissue from the bowel. Loss of depth and width could also be caused by not following a proper dilation routine.

“Again, these complications are probably markedly under-reported, as some patients are effectively celibate or do not need much vaginal depth and width for their chosen sexual activities.”

Growth of hair in the vagina – This is caused by not removing hair either before surgery or perioperatively. There is no cure; if your surgeon is using skin from the scrotum, be sure to have the hair removed.

“Once hair growth is seen in the vault of the neovagina, little can be done to prevent its continued growth, and a number of patients will have to return at intervals for removal of hairballs.”

Overall complicate rate – Under 25%. It is not clear exactly what complications they are including in this number.

Clitoroplasty

The authors don’t give numbers on orgasms or sexual satisfaction. In their experience, the vast majority of innervated neoclitorides have sensations.

Some surgeons create additional erogenous sensation by putting the part of the glans penis left after making the clitoris between the urethra and neoclitoris.

Past techniques led to problems with urethtral fistualas and leaking pee, but the techniques have changed.

“The rate of urinary leakage from urethral fistulas was substantial with this technique and it has now been largely superseded by techniques in which the neurovascular bundle to the glans, which lies between Buck’s fascia and the corpora cavernosa, is preserved. This technique has been widely described and seems to provide good rates of sensitivity and sexual satisfaction.”

Labioplasty

Creating labia minora is challenging. The best technique to use will depend on how much skin is left from the penis; this may vary depending on the individual and the surgery. There aren’t any guidelines on how to do this.

“Overall, a balance needs to be achieved between construction of a satisfactory neovagina, and a good, realistic, cosmetic external appearance. To date, no guidelines exist that give an indication of when and how penile or scrotal skin should be used for clitoral hood or labia minora reconstruction, or the ideal penile skin length, depth of the vagina or tissue that should be used. The choice of technique for labioplasty is, therefore, largely that of the individual surgeon.”

Urethrostomy

The authors describe one technique which has a low rate of immediate complications like bleeding, but can lead to peeing upwards or narrowing of the urethra. In addition, this technique leaves in place some erectile tissue that swells during sexual arousal.

The authors prefer a different technique which creates a satisfactory direction of pee and which they believe looks better cosmetically. However it has a raised risk of bleeding.

Specifically, with the first technique they “divide the urethra in the proximal bulb and suture the urothelium direct to the skin (bringing the urethra through the anterior skin flap)” and with the second they “spatulate the urethra, and excise some or all of the corpus spongiosum posterior to the urethral meatus.”

Other Surgeries for Trans Women

The authors briefly mention breast augmentation, vocal cord and throat surgery, and facial feminization surgery.

Breast augmentation in trans women is similar to breast augmentation in cis women, but will be affected by the shape and size of the starting breast tissue and muscles.

Speech therapy is required after vocal cord surgery.

“In facial feminization, good results are achieved by shaving of the frontal bossae, the brow ridges, the mandible angles and the chin, accompanied sometimes by rhinoplasty.”

SURGERIES FOR TRANS MEN

Some Complications and Risks, Metoidioplasty

One of the advantages of a metoidioplasty is that there are few complications and recovery time is “quick.”

“The complication rate is relatively low (overall complication rate <20%)—especially when compared with more elaborate microsurgical techniques, in which complications are reported in 40% of patients.”

The disadvantages of this type of surgery are that it produces a short phallus that may not be capable of sexual penetration. Not everyone can pee standing up.

On the other hand, sexual sensations are well preserved which is a pretty important factor. The authors don’t compare metoidioplasty and phalloplasty in terms of sexual pleasure for the trans man.

“…micturition in a standing position is somewhat, but not always, achievable. Despite the small size, some patients report satisfactory intercourse with female partners, and sensation is usually well preserved. Nevertheless, this approach is not well suited to individuals in whom clitoral hypertrophy is less marked, and the small size of the resultant phallus is unsatisfactory for most patients, not least because it is inadequate to show in clothing and for satisfactory sexual penetration.”

Are they trying to cause dysphoria here? I don’t think there are any numbers on what percentages of trans men prefer which form of surgery.

Some Complications and Risks, Phalloplasty

Overall complication rate – Over 40%. it is not clear exactly what complications they are including.

Microsurgical flap failure – Less than 2%.

Fistulas involving the neourethra – 25-30% in most series.

“Most fistulas will eventually close after a period of catheterization, but many require revision surgery.”

Urethral stricture formation (narrowing of the tube that carries pee out of the body) – 18%.

Postmicturition dribble (dribbling after peeing) – In one study, 79% of patients reported this problem.

Erectile function – Most phalloplasty techniques require the insertion of an inflatable prosthesis to become erect for sexual activity. “…the failure rate for penile prostheses is considerable, usually owing to infection of the device…”

We don’t know much about this yet. “Long-term results on the use of these erectile implants in FtM transsexuals is still lacking.”

There are some techniques that do not require a prosthesis, but they may have other issues.

“When a latissimus dorsi myocutaneous free flap is used, sexual intercourse is possible by contraction of the muscle, which stiffens, but shortens, the penis without requiring a prosthesis. Flaps harvested with bone (for example, fibula or osteocutaneous radial forearm flap) do not need stiffeners, but this flap type results in a permanent erection.”

Sexual sensation – For free-flap phalloplasties, “Sexual sensation with retention of ability to orgasm is usually preserved.” The authors don’t compare metoidioplasty and phalloplasty in terms of sexual pleasure for the trans man.

Different techniques – There are a few different techniques for phalloplasty, but we don’t have any studies comparing them to see which ones are best.

“To date, the gender team at Ghent University Hospital, Belgium, has published the largest series on phalloplasty (with radial forearm flap technique). The investigators demonstrated that the radial forearm flap is a reliable technique, although evidence that other techniques are similarly reliable, or even better than the radial forearm flap, is lacking.”

Mastectomy

An earlier review found few studies of mastectomies specifically for trans men. However, as the authors note here, it is important to have a surgeon experienced in mastectomies for trans men. The surgery is not the same as it is for women.

The authors give no numbers on complications but note that people often need minor revisions for cosmetic reasons.

The authors provide a few notes on techniques:

“The exact technique will depend on the volume of breast tissue, and the skin excess and elasticity. In small breasts, a satisfactory result may be achieved by subcutaneous mastectomy via a circumareolar incision, but in most patients more extensive surgery, with additional noticeable scars, is required. For very ptotic breasts, a breast amputation with free nipple– areola complex graft is indicated. Finally, the nipple itself and the diameter of the areola are often reduced. When done properly, the results may be very satisfactory, but poor technique can lead to unacceptable cosmetic results. Minor revisions to ameliorate the final cosmetic outcome are often required.”

Other Surgeries for Trans Men

For scrotal reconstruction, “As long as this advancement of the neoscrotum to the natural position in front of the legs is carried out, very satisfactory results can be obtained with no major complications.”

The authors say patients should get their uteruses and ovaries removed. They don’t provide any additional information on the procedures.

“Patients will also require hysterectomy and ovariectomy, because of the potential risk of endometrial carcinoma with protracted testosterone use, and are usually accomplished laparoscopically at the time of one of the stages of subsequent phalloplasty. The short blind-ended vagina can be left in place or removed.”

We could use more studies and articles on all of the above surgeries.

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS

“Gender reassignment surgery—in which elective surgery is performed to alter an individual’s body to resemble the other sex and in doing so adapt the body to the patient’s perception and lifestyle—is one of the most challenging surgical disciplines.

In MtF surgery, the technique is largely standardized, but refinements are needed to satisfy specific patient requests, such as vaginal depth and ‘perfect’ cosmetic outcome.

In FtM surgery, the variety of techniques available demonstrates that the ideal technique has not yet been identified and, depending on a patient’s request, a different surgical approach should be used. Furthermore, very few centers have the experience of, and subsequently can offer, different techniques for FtM gender reassignment. Moreover, complications are frequent and limitations to the ideal reconstruction are present with every technique used.

The complex psychological background of the patients and their expectations further challenge gender reassignment surgeons. The cooperation of the gender team in making a diagnosis, selecting appropriate patients for surgery, and deciding timing and type of surgical procedures to be performed, is crucial in reducing patients’ regrets or minor dissatisfactions (at both physical and psychosocial functioning levels) as a result of possible complications or for not having achieved the result expected.”

Original Source:

Gender reassignment surgery: an overview by Selvaggi G, Bellringer J. in Nat Rev Urol. 2011 May;8(5):274-8.

 

A Quote to Be Thankful for

“Now, the boys and girls up in marketing all know that advertisements and commercials don’t sell products. Advertisements and commercials sell what? Sex and gender! That’s right! And sex and gender sell what? The products? Very good! Sex, because it’s sex. And once you’ve had great sex, well, you’re going to want some more. And if you’ve never had great sex, you’ll buy anything hoping to get some. But gender—that’s another can of worms. That’s a different kettle of fish. That’s another pea in a different pod. Simply put, once you buy gender, you’ll buy anything in order to keep it. You’ll buy anything. So—the boys and girls up in marketing have come up with the ultimate marketing strategy. We’re not going to sell you any products tonight, no we’re going to sell you gender. And you want to buy it.

You want to buy gender because you want to relieve the nagging feeling that you’re not quite a man, not quite a woman.”

Doc Grinder speaking in the play Hidden: a Gender by Kate Bornstein, from Gender Outlaw, page 173.

Help for Eating Disorders

You are not alone. Help is just a call or click away.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, we are here to help.

  • Call our toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237
  • Click to chat with a Helpline volunteer (click at left on their website)

We are here every  Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST). Our helpline volunteers will be there to offer support and guidance with compassion and understanding.”

From the National Eating Disorders Association website. More information at their website.

You can leave messages at their helpline when they are closed.

Trans Lives Matter in San Francisco in the 1960s

“The Central City Anti-Poverty Program Office opened that fall as a result of the Tenderloin neighborhood organizing campaign. This multiservice agency included an office for the police community-relations officer to the homophile community, a police sergeant by the name of Elliott Blackstone. One afternoon shortly after the agency opened, a transgender neighborhood resident named Louise Ergestrasse came into Blackstone’s office, threw a copy of Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon on his desk, and demanded that Blackstone do something for ‘her people.’ Blackstone was willing to be educated on the matter, and he soon took a leading role in changing police treatment of transgender people.”

From Transgender History by Susan Stryker, page 75.

A 25-Year-Old Affirmed Male with Multiple Comorbid Conditions – Review of Case Study

This is a case study of a trans man (born female) with many serious mental health problems, including an eating disorder. He was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the trauma seems to have been at the root of his problems.

He had “an eating disorder with restriction and purging, substance dependence, gender dysphoria, panic disorder without agoraphobia, PTSD, dissociative disorder, learning disorder, sleep disorder, mood disorder, borderline personality disorder, and pain disorder.”

This case study does not make any connections between his eating disorder and his gender dypshoria. Given the abuse and the multiple comorbidities, it is unlikely that the gender dysphoria caused the eating disorders.

The authors suggest that both the eating disorder and the gender dysphoria were caused by the early trauma.

“the underlying foundation of these multiple diagnoses is the presence of early developmental trauma to the emotion regulation system — which manifests as physical and emotional pain with impulsive and maladaptive attempts to engage in behaviors to meet personal needs, including safety. Zanarini and colleagues performed a study examining Axis I comorbidity in patients with BPD [borderline personality disorder] and identified high rates of comorbid PTSD. They also observed that meeting criteria for multiple Axis I disorders predicted meeting criteria for BPD.”

Treatment focused on the most severe issues first; suicidal thoughts and behaviors, then purging behaviors, urges towards substance abuse, self-harm, self-care, and interpersonal behavior. The patient was treated with dialectical behavior therapy.

Medical transition came later and was not part of the recovery from the eating disorder. However, at the time the patient entered therapy, he had already taken a male name and was dressing and living as a male.

This case study has some similarities to the case of a teenage girl* who developed gender dysphoria while being treated for an eating disorder. The teenage girl was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse with multiple mental health problems: anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, excessive exercise, and OCD-type rituals related to germs (spraying her body with Lysol and excessive hand-washing). In addition, she had a past history of PTSD, OCD, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.

These two cases suggest that in some cases, gender dysphoria is not the main cause of an eating disorder. Rather, trauma causes multiple mental health issues.

There are two more case studies of transgender people with eating disorders who were survivors of child abuse. They suggest different possible conclusions, however.

A trans woman whose eating disorder began when she started to live as a woman. Her goal was to have a more feminine shape. Transition and hormones did not cure the eating disorder, however. She had been physically and sexually abused as a child.

A trans woman whose identical twin also had an eating disorder. Both twins were feminine in behavior from a young age and both were sexually attracted to men. Both survived an abusive father who threatened them with assault and death. However, one was a trans woman and one was a gay man.

In the first case, the eating disorder seems to be closely connected to the gender dysphoria since it started when she began to live as a woman. She clearly describes wanting to look more female. The abuse may have affected her, but gender dysphoria was also a factor.

In the second case, the eating disorder seems to have been caused by a combination of genes and environment, since both twins had anorexia but only one had gender dysphoria.

We’re left with the possibility that the answer is different in different cases. Sometimes severe childhood trauma may cause multiple mental health problems that include an eating disorder. Sometimes a combination of gender dysphoria and early childhood trauma may contribute to an eating disorder. And sometimes the same genes and environment will produce two people with similar eating disorders but different gender identities.

Of course, these are only four case studies. We can’t draw conclusions from them about all transgender people with eating disorders. Most of the case histories I have found don’t mention child abuse. Many of them suggest connections between gender dysphoria and eating disorders.

What we can see from these cases, however, is that for some transgender people with eating disorders, gender dysphoria is not the main or only cause of their eating disorder. Therapists should keep this in mind when treating transgender patients for eating disorders.

And, as always, we need more research.

Original Source (full text):

A 25-Year-Old Affirmed Male with Multiple Comorbid Conditions by Katharine J. Nelson, MD; S. Charles Schulz, MD in Psychiatric Annals, February 2012 – Volume 42 – Issue 2: 48-51.

UPSETTING MATERIAL ABOUT ABUSE BELOW

A few additional details of the case history:

The article provides an interesting discussion of diagnosing and treating a patient. The full text is available online without cost, but here are a few details of the case:

The trauma the trans man survived involved “repeated episodes of sexual violence perpetrated from age 4 to 9 years old by a childhood friend’s father in the neighborhood.”

“The patient believed he had suffered multiple head injuries related to physical violence and asphyxiation in the context of sexual trauma, but was unclear if he had lost consciousness because of head injury or because of psychological dissociation during these events.”

He had “a history of heavy chemical use, starting with first use of alcohol at age 7, which continued through age 23. He also used diet pills starting at age 14, followed by heavy use of cannabis at age 15, and cocaine and other narcotics, including pills and heroin, at age 18 years.”

The patient had severe pelvic floor dysfunction which caused him a great deal of pain. It took him a while to get this diagnosed correctly.

“The patient was born and raised as a female, but in retrospect realized he did not fully identify with either the male or female gender. In the previous 2 years, he had decided to openly adopt a male gender, name, and manner of dress. He had the intention of pursuing hormone therapy and, eventually, chest reconstruction.”

Treatment and afterwards:

“Suicidal thoughts and behaviors were identified as the highest-priority target; after 6 months, these thoughts and behaviors had resolved. The patient was engaged in therapy and did not require significant emphasis on therapy interfering behaviors; therefore, quality-of-life interfering behaviors could be targeted, including purging behaviors, urges to use substances, self-injury, self-care, and interpersonally effective behaviors with friends, family, and other medical professionals. He graduated phase 1 of DBT therapy and proceeded to phase 2 to continue working on healthy emotional experiencing and management of trauma sequelae.

The patient graduated college with a high grade point average and went on to pursue master’s level education. He underwent sex hormone treatment and chest reconstruction.

He developed additional medical comorbidities, including insulin resistance and adrenal insufficiency. These medical conditions necessitated moving back in with his parents, resulting in significant familial conflict. The patient’s therapist made a referral for family therapy through our department, which was coordinated among treatment providers. The patient is enthusiastic about the progress made in treatment and states he often wonders if he would be still be alive without the intervention he received. Over the course of 3 years, his medications were all tapered to discontinuation, with the exception of prazocin 10 mg at bedtime for nightmares, ramelteon 8 mg for sleep, and clonazepam 1 mg three times a day, which was continued to assist with pelvic musculature functioning.”