Sexual Health Q&A

What is a penile rehabilitation program (PRP)?

The prostate gland is surrounded by nerves that are critical for a man’s ability to have an erection.

When a man has prostate cancer, he may have a procedure called a prostatectomy, which involves removing the prostate gland. During a prostatectomy, a surgeon tries to preserve the surrounding nerves as much as possible. However, many men still have problems with erections after surgery.

Penile rehabilitation programs (PRPs) are like a form of physical therapy. For example, if a man has knee surgery, he may go to physical therapy and do exercises to strengthen his knee and get it back into good condition. If he doesn’t do his exercises, his knee may get weaker.

PRPs work in a similar way. They can help men recover their erectile function by inducing erections to “exercise” the penis. This process keeps erectile tissue healthy while the remaining nerves heal from surgery. The erections may be induced through oral medication, injections into the penis, penile suppositories, or vacuum devices. Some men are advised to masturbate on a regular basis.

Through penile rehabilitation, it is hoped that the patient will eventually have satisfactory erections on his own or will respond well to oral medications for erectile dysfunction. 

It should be noted that some experts do not think penile rehabilitation is a worthwhile strategy.

Penile rehabilitation can take time – sometimes up to four years. With patience and dedication, however, many men are able to again have erections suitable for sex.