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Vaginoplasty for Gender Affirmation

Featured Experts:

Fan Liang

Fan Liang, M.D.

Dr. Andrew Cohen

Andrew Jason Cohen, M.D.

Vaginoplasty is a surgical procedure for  feminizing  gender affirmation. Fan Liang, M.D. , medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender and Gender Expansive Health , and Andrew Cohen, M.D. , director of benign urology at Johns Hopkins' Brady Urological Institute , review the options for surgery.

What is vaginoplasty?

Gender affirming surgery can be used to create a vulva and vagina. It involves removing the penis, testicles and scrotum.

During a vaginoplasty procedure, tissue in the genital area is rearranged to create a vaginal canal (or opening) and vulva (external genitalia), including the labia. A version of vaginoplasty called vulvoplasty can create a feminine-appearing outer genital area with a shallow vaginal canal.

What are the different types of vaginoplasty?

There are two main surgical approaches for this gender affirming surgery.

Vaginoplasty with Canal

This surgery is also known as full depth vaginoplasty. Vaginoplasty with canal creates not only the outer vulva but also a complete vaginal canal that makes it possible for the person to have receptive vaginal intercourse.

Vaginoplasty with canal requires dilation as part of the recovery process in order to ensure a functioning vagina suitable for penetrative sex. There are two approaches to full depth vaginoplasty.

For penile inversion vaginoplasty , surgeons create the vaginal canal using a combination of the skin surrounding the existing penis along with the scrotal skin. Depending on how much skin is available in the genital area, the surgeon may need to use a skin graft from the abdomen or thigh to construct a full vaginal canal.

Robotic-assisted peritoneal flap vaginoplasty , also called a robotic Davydov peritoneal vaginoplasty or a robotic peritoneal gender affirming vaginoplasty, is a newer approach that creates the vaginal canal with the help of a single port robotic surgical system.

The robotic system enables surgeons to reach deep into the body through a small incision by the belly button. It helps surgeons visualize the inside of the person’s pelvis more clearly and, for this procedure, creates a vaginal canal.

There are several advantages to this surgical technique. Because using the robotic system makes the surgery shorter and more precise, with a smaller incision, it can lower risk of complications. Also, the robotic vaginoplasty approach can create a full-depth vaginal canal regardless of how much preexisting (natal) tissue the person has for the surgeon to use in making the canal.

Not every surgical center has access to a single port robotic system, and getting this procedure may involve travel.

Vulvoplasty

This procedure may be called shallow depth vaginoplasty, zero depth vaginoplasty or vaginoplasty without canal. The surgeons create feminine external genitalia (vulva) with a very shallow canal. The procedure includes the creation of the labia (outer and inner lips), clitoris and vaginal opening (introitus).

The main drawback to this approach is the person cannot have receptive vaginal intercourse because no canal is created.

There are advantages, however. Because this is a much less complicated approach than vaginoplasty with canal, vulvoplasty can mean a much shorter operation, with less time in the hospital and a faster recovery. Vulvoplasty also involves less risk of complications, and does not require hair removal or postoperative dilation.

Do I need to have hair removal before vaginoplasty? When should I start?

Permanent hair removal (to remove the hair follicles to prevent regrowth) before surgery is recommended for optimal results. Patients are advised to start hair removal as soon as possible in advance of vaginoplasty, since it can take three to six months to complete the process. The hair removal process readies the tissue that will be used to create the internal vaginal canal. For people who are not able to complete the hair removal in advance, there may be residual hair in the canal after surgery.

How long is vaginoplasty surgery?

Most vaginoplasty surgeries last between four and six hours. Recovery in the hospital takes three to five days.

Illustrated Vaginoplasty Surgery

Vaginoplasty.

1 of 4 in series. Enlarged image .

Hillary Wilson's illustrations of gender affirming surgery detail the first slide of male to female vaginoplasty.

2 of 4 in series. Enlarged image .

Hillary Wilson's illustrations of gender affirming surgery detail the second slide of male to female vaginoplasty.

3 of 4 in series. Enlarged image .

Hillary Wilson's illustrations of gender affirming surgery detail the third slide of male to female vaginoplasty.

4 of 4 in series. Enlarged image .

Hillary Wilson's illustrations of gender affirming surgery detail the final slide of male to female vaginoplasty.

Recovery After Vaginoplasty

After surgery, you will be admitted to the hospital for one to five days. You will spend most of this time in bed recovering. Your care team will monitor your pain, and make sure you are healing appropriately and are able to go to the bathroom and walk.

On average, it can take six to eight weeks to recover from a vaginoplasty. Every person’s recovery is different, but proper home hygiene and postoperative care will give you the best chance for a faster recovery. Patients who have had vaginoplasties need to stay within a 90-minute drive of the hospital for four weeks after surgery so doctors can follow up and address any issues.

Consistent daily dilation for the first three months is essential for best outcome. Before you go home, you will be taught how to dilate if you have a vaginoplasty with canal. You will be given dilators before discharge to use at home.

What is dilation after vaginoplasty?

Part of the healing process after vaginoplasty involves dilation — inserting a medical grade dilator into the vagina to keep your vaginal canal open as it heals. The hospital may provide you with a set of different sized dilators to use.

A doctor or therapist from your care team will show you how to dilate. This can be difficult at first, but professionals will work with you and your comfort level to help you get accustomed to this aspect of your healing process. You will begin dilating with the smallest dilator in the dilator pack. You continue to use this dilator until cleared to advance to the next size by your care team.

During the first few weeks after surgery, you must dilate three times a day for at least 20 minutes. It is very important that you continue dilating, especially during your immediate postoperative period, to prevent losing vaginal depth and width. Patients continue to use a dilator for as long as the care team recommends. Some patients may need to dilate their whole lives.

Is dilation after vaginoplasty painful?

Dilation should not be a painful process. At first, you may feel discomfort as you learn the easiest angles and techniques for your body. If you feel severe pain at any time during dilation, it is important to stop, adjust the dilator, and reposition your body so you are more comfortable. It is also important to use lubricant when you dilate. A pelvic floor therapist can work with you to help you get used to this aspect of recovery.

Will I have a catheter?

Yes. While you are in the hospital, you will have a Foley catheter in the urethra that will be taken out before you go home.

Will I have surgical drains?

Yes, your surgeon will place a drain while you are in the operating room, which will be removed before you leave.

Can I shower after vaginoplasty surgery?

Yes. It is very important to clean the area to prevent infections. You can gently wash the area with soap and water. Never scrub or allow water to be sprayed directly at the surgical site.

Is going to the bathroom different?

It is important to remember for the rest of your life that when wiping with toilet paper or washing the genital area, always wipe front to back. This helps keep your vagina clean and prevents infection from the anal region.

You may notice some spraying when you urinate. This is common, and can be addressed with physical therapy to help strengthen the pelvic floor. A physical therapist can help you with exercises, which may help improve urination over time.

Is the vagina created by vaginoplasty sexually functional?

Yes. After vaginoplasty that includes creation of a vaginal canal, a person can have receptive, penetrative sex.

You must avoid any form of sexual activity for 12 weeks after surgery to allow your body to recover and avoid complications. After 12 weeks, the vagina is healed enough for receptive intercourse.

What will my vagina look like?

Vulvas and vaginas are as unique as a fingerprint, and there are many anatomic variations from person to person. Surgical results vary, also. You can expect that the surgery will recreate the labia minora and majora, a clitoral hood and the clitoris will be under the hood. Make sure you discuss your concerns with your surgeon, who can help you understand what to expect from your individual surgical results.

What is the average depth of a vagina after vaginoplasty?

The depth of a fully constructed vaginal canal depends on patient preferences and anatomy. On average, the constructed vaginal canal is between 5 and 7 inches deep. Vaginal depth may depend on the amount of skin available in the genital area before your vaginoplasty. This varies among individuals, and some patients may need skin grafts.

Newer robotic techniques may be able to increase the vaginal depth for those people with less existing tissue for the surgeon to work with.

Will I need any additional surgery after vaginoplasty?

You may need additional surgical procedures to revise the appearance of the new vagina and vulva. Later revisions can improve aesthetic appearance, but these are not typically covered by insurance.

Vaginoplasty Complications

Vaginoplasty is safe, overall, and newer techniques are reducing the risks of problems even further. But sometimes, patients experience complications related to the procedure. These can include:

  • Slow wound healing
  • Narrowing of the vaginal canal (regular dilating as prescribed can lower this risk)

Some rare complications may require further surgery to repair:

  • A fistula (an abnormal connection between the new vagina and the rectum or bladder)
  • Injury to the urethra, which may require surgery or a suprapubic catheter
  • Rectal injury (very rare) may require a low-fiber diet, a colostomy or additional surgery.

Be sure to discuss your concerns with your surgeon, who will work with you for optimal results.

Find a Doctor

Specializing In:

  • Gender Affirmation Surgery
  • Transgender Health

Find a Treatment Center

  • Center for Transgender and Gender Expansive Health
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Find Additional Treatment Centers at:

  • Howard County Medical Center
  • Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • Suburban Hospital

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Phalloplasty for Gender Affirmation

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Top Surgery

gender reassignment surgery options

Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS)

Related Topics

  • LGBTQ Health
  • Gender Affirmation

Female to Male Surgery for Trans Men

As a transgender male, your goal for female to male surgery (FTM) for gender-confirmation can involve top surgery, bottom surgery, or both. You may or may not want facial procedures. It’s up to you.

Female to Male Surgery at UVA

We’re here to offer consultations, second opinions, and information to help you choose and plan. Come to us with your questions and concerns. We’ll explain:

  • Procedure options and details
  • Recovery and healing
  • What to expect of your results

We want you to feel confident about the direction and quality of your care.

Charley's Gender-Confirmation Surgery

From a young age, Charley Burton knew that his body did not match his gender identity – a struggle he kept inside for 50 years. With the help of family nurse practitioner Reagan Thompson, FNP, MSN, RN, and a whole team of caring providers, Charley found a safe place to become his true self. View Charley's story transcript.

FTM Top Surgery

To give you a flatter chest, we’ll have to remove breast tissue. We might also need to move and shrink your areolas.

If you have smaller breasts, we can sometimes use liposuction, which doesn’t involve many incisions.

Larger breasts may require the “double incision” technique. This method saves the pectoralis major muscle, the most defining characteristic of a male chest.

Whatever your breast size, we will use the techniques that optimize the results.

FTM Bottom Surgery

We can give you male genitalia in two different ways:

  • Phalloplasty creates a penis and urethra (to stand while urinating). We use tissue from your forearm or thigh. We do this in 2 stages.
  • Metoidioplasty takes your existing genital tissue and makes it longer, turning it into a defined phallus. This needs only one surgery.

You may or may not want to also have an operation to remove your internal reproductive organs. A hysterectomy takes out your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

Facial Masculinization

Through a combination of procedures, we can sculpt your chin, jaw, and cheeks to appear more masculine. We can also reshape your nose and make your Adam’s apple look bigger. We can use synthetic implants for this work.

Questions? See our  transgender surgery FAQs .

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Transgender Health Program

Gender-affirming surgery.

OHSU surgeons are leaders in gender-diverse care. We provide specialized services tailored to the needs and goals of each patient. We offer:

  • Specialists who do hundreds of surgeries a year.
  • Plastic surgeons, urologists and other specialists who are leading experts in bottom surgery, top surgery and other gender-affirming options.
  • Vocal surgery with a highly trained ear, nose and throat doctor.
  • Peer volunteers who can provide support during visits.
  • Welcoming care for every patient, every gender and every journey.

Our surgical services

We offer many gender-affirming surgery options for transgender and nonbinary patients, including options within the following types. We also welcome you to request a procedure that isn’t listed on our pages.

Top surgery:

  • Gender-affirming mastectomy
  • Gender-affirming breast augmentation

Bottom surgery:

  • Phalloplasty and metoidioplasty , including vagina-preserving options
  • Vaginoplasty and vulvoplasty , including penile-preserving options

Hysterectomy

Nullification surgery, oophorectomy, orchiectomy.

Bottom surgery options also include:

  • Scrotectomy
  • Scrotoplasty
  • Urethroplasty
  • Vaginectomy

Additional gender-affirming options:

  • Adam’s apple surgery

Vocal surgery

Face and body surgery, preparing for surgery.

Please see our patient guide page to learn about:

  • Steps to surgery
  • WPATH standards of care
  • The letter of support needed for some surgeries

For patients

Request services.

Please fill out an online form:

  • I am seeking services for myself.
  • I am seeking services for someone else.

Other questions and concerns

Contact us at:

Refer a patient

  • Please complete our  Request for Transgender Health Services referral form   and fax with relevant medical records to  503-346-6854 .
  • Learn more on our  For Health Care Professionals  page.

At OHSU, our gynecologic surgeon, Dr. Lishiana Shaffer, specializes in hysterectomies (uterus and cervix removal; often combined with oophorectomy, or ovary removal) for gender-diverse patients. She does more than 150 a year.

We also offer a Transgender Gynecology Clinic with a gender-neutral space. Services include surgery. Referrals and appointments are made through the OHSU Center for Women's Health, though the space is not in the center. Call 503-418-4500 to request an appointment.

Some patients choose hysterectomy to:

  • More closely align their bodies with their gender identity.
  • With ovary removal, to remove a main source of the hormone estrogen.
  • To end pain caused by testosterone therapy that shrinks the uterus.
  • To end the need for some gynecologic exams, such Pap smears.

Preparation: We usually recommend a year of hormone therapy first, to shrink the uterus. We don’t require a year of social transition.

How hysterectomy is done

Most often, we use a minimally invasive laparoscope and small incisions in the belly. We usually recommend removing fallopian tubes as well, to greatly reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Most patients spend one night in the hospital. Recovery typically takes about two weeks. You’re encouraged to walk during that time but to avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise.

Considerations and risks

Hysterectomy is usually safe, and we have a low rate of complications. Risks can include blood clots, infection and scar tissue. Because of a possible link between hysterectomy and higher risk of cardiovascular disease, your doctors may recommend regular tests.

Removing the uterus also ends the ability to carry a child. OHSU fertility experts offer options such as egg freezing before treatment, and connecting patients with a surrogacy service.

OHSU offers nullification surgery to create a gender-neutral look in the groin area.

Nullification surgery may include:

  • Removing the penis (penectomy)
  • Removing the testicles (orchiectomy)
  • Reducing or removing the scrotum (scrotectomy)
  • Shortening the urethra
  • Removing the uterus (hysterectomy)
  • Removing the vagina (vaginectomy)

The procedure takes several hours. Patients can expect to spend one to two nights in the hospital. Recovery typically takes six to eight weeks. Patients are asked to limit walking and to stick to light to moderate activity for four weeks. They should wait three months before bicycling or strenuous activity.

Nullification surgery cannot be reversed. Risks can include:

  • Changes in sensation
  • Dissatisfaction with the final look
  • Healing problems

Removing the penis and testicles or the uterus also affects the ability to conceive a child. OHSU fertility experts offer options such as freezing eggs and connecting patients with a surrogacy service.

Having a gynecologic surgeon remove one or both ovaries is often done at the same time as a hysterectomy. We do nearly all these surgeries with a minimally invasive laparoscope and small incisions in the belly.

Most patients spend one night in the hospital and return to their regular routine in about two weeks.

The ovaries produce estrogen, which helps prevent bone loss and the thickening of arteries. After removal, a patient should be monitored long-term for the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

We encourage patients to keep at least one ovary to preserve fertility without egg freezing. This also preserves some hormone production, which can avoid early menopause.

At OHSU, expert urologists do orchiectomies (testicle removal). Patients may choose this option:

  • To remove the body’s source of testosterone
  • As part of a vaginoplasty or vulvoplasty (surgeries that create a vagina and/or vulva)
  • To relieve dysphoria (some patients choose only this surgery)

Removing the testicles usually means a patient can stop taking a testosterone blocker. Patients may also be able to lower estrogen therapy.

How orchiectomy is done

The surgeon makes an incision in the scrotum. The testicles and the spermatic cord, which supplies blood, are removed. Scrotal skin is removed only if the patient specifically requests it. The skin is used if the patient plans a vaginoplasty or vulvoplasty.

You will probably go home the same day. Patients can typically resume normal activities in a week or two.

Reducing testosterone production may increase the risk of bone loss and cardiovascular disease, so we recommend regular tests. Without prior fertility treatment, orchiectomy also ends the ability to produce children. Serious risks are uncommon but include bleeding, infection, nerve damage and scarring.

Adam’s apple reduction (laryngochrondoplasty)

Dr. Joshua Schindler, an ear, nose and throat doctor who does Adam’s apple and vocal surgeries, completed his training at Johns Hopkins University.

Laryngochrondoplasty is also known as Adam’s apple reduction or a tracheal shave (though the trachea, or windpipe, is not affected).

A surgeon removes thyroid cartilage at the front of the throat to give your neck a smoother appearance. This procedure can often be combined with facial surgery.

Thin incision: At OHSU, this procedure can be done by an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) with detailed knowledge of the neck’s anatomy. The surgeon uses a thin incision, tucked into a neck line or fold. It can also be done by one of our plastic surgeons, typically with other facial surgery.

In an office or an operating room: Our team can do a laryngochrondoplasty in either setting, which may limit a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses.

OHSU also offers Adams’ apple enhancement surgery.

Many patients find that hormone therapy and speech therapy help them achieve a voice that reflects their identity. For others, vocal surgery can be added to raise the voice’s pitch.

Voice therapy: Patients have voice and communication therapy before we consider vocal surgery. Your surgeon and your speech therapist will assess your voice with tests such as videostroboscopy (allowing us to see how your vocal cords work) and acoustic voice analysis.

Effective surgery: We use a surgery called a Wendler glottoplasty. It’s done through the mouth under general anesthesia. The surgeon creates a small controlled scar between the two vocal cords, shortening them to increase tension and raise pitch. Unlike techniques that can lose effectiveness over time, this surgery offers permanent results.

Hormone therapy can bring out desired traits, but it can’t change the underlying structure or remove hair follicles. Our highly trained surgeons and other specialists offer options. Patients usually go home the same day or spend one night in a private room.

Face options:

  • Browlift (done with the forehead)
  • Cheek augmentation
  • Chin surgery (genioplasty), including reductive, implants or bone-cut options
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Face-lift, neck lift
  • Forehead lengthening
  • Forehead reduction, including Type 3 sinus setback and orbital remodeling
  • Hairline advancement (done with the forehead)
  • Jawline contouring
  • Lip lift and/or augmentation
  • Lipofilling (transferring fat using liposuction and filling)
  • Nose job (rhinoplasty)

Body options:

Hormone treatment may not result in fat distribution consistent with your gender. We offer liposuction and fat grafting to reshape areas of the body.

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Gender-Affirming Surgeries

TOP-RANKED HOSPITALS ACCORDING TO USNews & WORLD REPORT IN 8 SPECIALTIES FOR THE 2024-2025 PERIOD

What is gender-affirming surgery?

Gender-affirming surgeries change the look and function of your assigned sex to more closely match the gender you identify with. Having a gender-affirming surgery may be part of your journey to becoming more of your true self.

Surgical options for gender-affirmation include facial surgery, voice surgery, and top and bottom surgeries. Patients whose assigned sex and gender identity are different may experience gender dysphoria. Gender-affirming surgery is an important part of the management of patients with gender dysphoria.

Top surgery includes procedures to create or remove breasts. Feminizing bottom surgery includes procedures to remove the penis and testicles and create a new vagina, labia and clitoris. Learn more about feminizing bottom surgery .

Masculinizing bottom surgery includes procedures to remove the uterus or add a penis for intercourse and urinating or a small penis to urinate standing up. Learn more about masculinizing bottom surgery .

We follow the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards when performing gender-affirming surgeries. These guidelines are set for safe, effective physical and mental health care for transgender and gender-nonconforming patients. Requirements for each procedure will vary.

Why choose Ohio State for gender-affirming surgery?

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is one of only a few academic health centers in the country to offer bottom gender-affirming surgery. We have a dedicated team of medical experts in every field, and through close collaboration aim to serve the LGBTQ population of Columbus and beyond.

Surgical options for gender-affirmation

  • Meet our gender-affirming care surgical team Meet your surgical team

Helpful Links

  • LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group HealthBeat HUB Channel (Internal Access Only)
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Services
  • Transgender Primary Care Clinic
  • Ear, Nose and Throat Services
  • Urology Services

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COMMENTS

  1. Gender Affirmation Surgery: What Happens, Benefits & Recovery

    Gender-affirming options may include facial surgery, top surgery or bottom surgery. Most people who choose gender affirmation surgeries report satisfaction with results, including the way their body looks and works and improved quality of life.

  2. Gender-affirming surgery (male-to-female)

    Gender-affirming surgery for male-to-female transgender women or transfeminine non-binary people describes a variety of surgical procedures that alter the body to provide physical traits more comfortable and affirming to an individual's gender identity and overall functioning. Often used to refer to vaginoplasty, sex reassignment surgery can ...

  3. Vaginoplasty for Gender Affirmation

    Gender affirming surgery can be used to create a vulva and vagina. It involves removing the penis, testicles and scrotum. During a vaginoplasty procedure, tissue in the genital area is rearranged to create a vaginal canal (or opening) and vulva (external genitalia), including the labia.

  4. What to Expect from Gender Confirmation Surgery

    There are three basic top surgery options for AFAB folks: Double incision. With this procedure, incisions are typically made at the top and bottom of the pectoral muscle and the chest tissue...

  5. Overview of gender-affirming treatments and procedures

    Transgender people may seek any one of a number of gender-affirming interventions, including hormone therapy, surgery, facial hair removal, interventions for the modification of speech and communication, and behavioral adaptations such as genital tucking or packing, or chest binding.

  6. Female to Male Surgery for Trans Men

    We can give you male genitalia in two different ways: Phalloplasty creates a penis and urethra (to stand while urinating). We use tissue from your forearm or thigh. We do this in 2 stages. Metoidioplasty takes your existing genital tissue and makes it longer, turning it into a defined phallus. This needs only one surgery.

  7. Gender-Affirming Surgery

    We offer many gender-affirming surgery options for transgender and nonbinary patients, including options within the following types. We also welcome you to request a procedure that isn’t listed on our pages. Top surgery: Gender-affirming mastectomy. Gender-affirming breast augmentation. Bottom surgery:

  8. Gender-Affirming Surgeries

    Surgical options for gender-affirmation include facial surgery, voice surgery, and top and bottom surgeries. Patients whose assigned sex and gender identity are different may experience gender dysphoria.