Sexual Health Q&A

Q&A
Male Sexual Health
What is a penis fracture, and how is it treated?

A penis fracture is a tear in a membrane in the penis called the tunica albuginea. This membrane surrounds the corpora cavernosa, the two long chambers that fill with blood when a man has an erection. The tunica albuginea helps maintain the erection’s firmness by keeping the blood in these chambers until the man ejaculates or until sexual stimulation ends.

Vigorous intercourse is one of the most common causes of penile fracture, especially in Western countries. Certain sexual positions, like “woman on top,” can increase the risk. Fracture can also happen if a man masturbates aggressively or rolls over his erect penis while sleeping.

In the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, the Taghaandan maneuver is a frequent cause. Men who practice this forcefully bend the shaft of an erect penis. The maneuver is sometimes compared to cracking one’s knuckles. Some men feel pleasure from it.

Sometimes, men see especially vigorous intercourse depicted in pornographic videos. They may try to imitate those actions when they are with a partner, not realizing that they could fracture their penis. Men should understand that what they see in videos is not necessarily what they should be doing in real life, and that penis fracture is a possibility.

Usually, men hear a cracking or popping noise when they fracture their penis. They might also experience pain, swelling, bruising, or bleeding.

Penis fracture is an emergency. Men who suspect they have fractured their penis should seek medical care immediately. Waiting too long could lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) later.

At the emergency department, a doctor will examine the penis and assess symptoms. He or she may also order an imaging test, such as an ultrasound. This test can help pinpoint the exact location of the tear and determine whether there is damage to urethra as well. (The urethra is the tube in the penis from which a man urinates or ejaculates semen. Recent research suggests that up to a third of men with penis fracture also have an injury to the urethra.)

Surgery is the typical treatment for a penis fracture, and it is usually carried out as quickly as possible, especially if there is damage to the urethra. In some cases, the penis is “degloved” (skin is removed) in order to expose the area that needs repair. However, some men need only a small incision.

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