Customs officials in Africa may be a bit surprised when they look inside several boxes due to arrive soon from the U.S. But the unusual cargo – a life-size model of a man’s groin, sans pantalons -- is for a good cause.
The Filaricele Anatomical Surgical Task Trainer, or FASTT, is an anatomically precise mannequin for use in training surgeons how to operate on men suffering from hydrocele, the severe swelling of the scrotum caused by the disease lymphatic filariasis.
Hydrocele occurs when filarial worms transmitted by mosquitos lodge in the lymphatic vessels of the scrotum, causing fluid to accumulate. In particularly acute cases, the enlarged scrotum may hang down to the knees.
It’s not hard to imagine the disability and shame suffered by men with hydrocele. Studies have documented their inability to move freely due to pain, their embarrassment at appearing in public, their undesirability as marriage partners, and even their rejection by wives. And when hydrocele robs men of their ability to work, the economic blow can extend to families and communities.
Perhaps more surprising is how many men are affected. A World Health Organization-designated neglected tropical disease, lymphatic filariasis is almost unheard of in more northern latitudes but relatively common across broad swaths of Africa and Southeast Asia. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 25 million men worldwide are living with filarial hydrocele.
Fortunately, a treatment exits. Through a surgical procedure known as hydrocelectomy, the fluid can be removed and the scrotum permanently returned to its normal size. With generous funding from USAID, the MMDP Project is supporting national efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in three endemic countries. The project’s support will help countries train surgeons to perform high-quality hydrocelectomies and increase access to surgery, so that no man need endure the disability and stigma of hydrocele.