Female Genital Mutilation Reconstruction for Plastic Surgeons

A Call to Arms

Takintope Akinbiyi, MD, MSc; Emily Langston; Ivona Percec, MD, PhD


Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2018;6(11):e1945 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is performed for historically engrained cultural beliefs with no recognized health benefits. FGM continues to be practiced secondary to motivating factors based on cultural beliefs, the majority of which aim to maintain the "purity" of the female victim. The World Health Organization has classified FGM into 4 types ranging from partial clitoral resection to complete clitoral excision along with the majority of the vulva. The list of short and long-term complications is extensive and morbid, including injury to the patient's sexuality and feminine identity. Reconstructive surgery can be an important addition to psychotherapy for these women with the goal of correcting the appearance of the vulva to achieve a more normal appearance, and to restore clitoral function. We suggest that this represents an opportunity for plastic surgeons to use our wealth of reconstructive knowledge to provide restoration of form and function to FGM victims.


The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), also referred to as cutting, pricking, or female circumcision, is performed for historically ingrained traditional beliefs with no recognized health benefits.[1] The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as comprising all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or as any other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.[1] The clitoris has been described as being essential to female sexual arousal and function and the outer appearance of the female genitalia is heavily tied to female sexuality.[2,3] Therefore, acts that intentionally injure, or attempt to remove the clitoris and surrounding structures, are profoundly damaging and represent a gross violation of human rights.