Nerve morbidity at the radial forearm donor site following gender-affirming phalloplasty

Blair R. Peters, Zbigniew Sikora, Benjamin H. Timmins, Jens U. Berli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: In the radial forearm phalloplasty multiple nerves are harvested to provide phallic sensation, resulting in iatrogenic nerve injuries. Despite this, nerve morbidity following this procedure has been minimally assessed. The purpose of this study was to assess donor site nerve morbidity following radial forearm phalloplasty. Methods: Patients who underwent gender-affirming phalloplasty at our institution between 2016–2020 using the radial forearm were included. Pain characteristics were assessed with a modified Mackinnon Pain questionnaire consisting of 33 items, including visual analog scales (VAS) for reporting of pain and impact on aspects of quality of life (QoL), as well as 20 descriptive pain adjectives and a 21-item questionnaire to capture overall pain experience. Results: A total of 37 patients were included. 31 had minimal-mild pain (VAS scores 0–3), and 6 patients had moderate-severe pain (VAS scores 4–10). The mild pain group reported a mean 2.74 (0–7) pain descriptors and reported minimal impact on QoL metrics. The moderate-severe pain group reported mean 6.33 (2–15) pain descriptors and reported significant impacts on QoL metrics. Significant differences were observed with decreased QoL (p = 0.018), increased sadness (p = 0.009), increased frustration (p = 0.030), increased anger (p = 0.0496), and decreased hopefulness (p = 0.0496) in the moderate-severe pain group along with interference of pain with sleep (p = 0.002). Conclusions: In a cross-sectional analysis of 37 patients who underwent gender-affirming radial forearm phalloplasty, the majority (31) experienced a minimal degree of donor site nerve pain. Six patients suffered from more significant nerve pain that was associated with a decreased QoL. Treatment and prevention of this nerve pain represent important areas for future exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3836-3844
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Donor site
  • Morbidity
  • Nerve
  • Phalloplasty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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