Vaginoplasty: Male to Female (MTF) Genital Reconstructive Surgery
What Is Vaginoplasty?
Vaginoplasty is a surgical procedure during which surgeons remove the penis and testicles and create a functional vagina. This achieves resolution of gender dysphoria and allows for sexual activity with compatible genitalia. The highly sensitive skin and tissues from the penis are preserved and used to construct the vaginal lining and build a clitoris, resulting in genitals with appropriate sensations. Scrotal skin is used to increase the depth of the vaginal canal. Penile, scrotal and groin skin are refashioned to make the labia majora and minora, and the urethral opening is relocated to an appropriate female position. The final result is an anatomically congruent, aesthetically appealing, and functionally intact vagina. Unless there is a medical reason to do so, the prostate gland is not removed.
University Hospitals has the only reconstructive urology program in the region offering MTF vaginoplasty and other genital gender affirmation surgical procedures. Call 216-844-3009 to schedule a consultation.
Penile Inversion Technique for Vaginoplasty
Penile inversion is the most common type of vaginoplasty and is considered the gold standard for male to female genital reconstruction. This type of gender affirmation surgery can last from two to five hours and is performed with the patient under general anesthesia.
The skin is removed from the penis and inverted to form a pouch which is then inserted into the vaginal cavity created between the urethra and rectum. The urethra is partially removed, shortened and repositioned. Labia majora and labia minora (outer and inner lips), and a clitoris are created. After everything has been sutured in place, a catheter is inserted into the urethra and the area is bandaged. The bandages and catheter will typically remain in place for four to five days. For some patients, a shallow depth vaginoplasty is recommended. This allows for a functional vagina but removes the need for vaginal dilation and douching.
Outcomes after vaginoplasty are excellent, and patients can expect to have aesthetic outcomes and sexual functionality similar to that for cis-women (people that were assigned female sex characteristics at birth and identify as female).
Complications after vaginoplasty are rare, but patients are advised to talk to their doctor about postsurgical risks and how to best manage them.
Things to Consider Before Having a Penile Inversion Vaginoplasty
- Given that the skin used to construct the new vaginal lining may have abundant hair follicles, patients are recommended to undergo hair removal (either electrolysis or laser hair removal) prior to the vaginoplasty procedure to eliminate the potential for vaginal hair growth. A full course of hair removal can take several months.
- Patients with fertility concerns should talk to their doctor about ways to save and preserve their sperm before having a vaginoplasty.
- It is always recommended that patients talk with a therapist in the months leading up to surgery to ensure they are mentally prepared for the transition.
- In accordance with the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care, patients are required be on appropriate cross-gender hormone therapy for a year, live in the gender-congruent role for a year, and have 2 mental health letters endorsing their suitability for surgery.
Postoperative Care of Your New Vagina
To ensure that your newly constructed vagina maintains the desired depth and width, your UH surgeon will give you a vaginal dilator to begin using as soon as the bandages are removed. Use the dilator regularly according to your surgeon’s recommendations. This will usually involve inserting the device for ten minutes several times per day for the first three months. After that, once per day for three months followed by two to three times a week until a full year has passed.
Furthermore, regular douching and cleaning of the vagina is recommended. Your surgeon will give you general guidelines for this as well. Approximately 1 out of 10 people who have a vaginoplasty end up requiring a second, minor surgery to correct some of the scarring from the first surgery and improve the function and cosmetic appearance.
Most genital gender affirmation surgeries are covered by insurance. In cases where they are not, your surgeon’s office will guide you through the self-pay options.