What is a Penile Prosthesis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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A penile prosthesis is a device which is surgically implanted into the penis to allow it to sustain an erection. Penile prostheses or penile implants as they are also known are used in the treatment of several medical issues faced by men, and there are a number of styles available. The implantation procedure can be performed by a urological surgeon or plastic surgeon, and is typically done under general anesthesia.

One common reason to receive a penile prosthesis is erectile dysfunction. If erectile dysfunction cannot be treated by other means, a doctor may recommend a penile prosthesis which would allow a man to achieve erections. Penile prostheses are also implanted during phalloplasty procedures in which the penis is rebuilt with plastic surgery. Some reasons to require such surgery include sexual reassignment surgery, surgery after an accident to the groin area, or surgery to repair congenital abnormalities which interfere with health or quality of life.

The earliest type of penile prosthesis was a set of malleable rods implanted in the penis, and this technique is still used today. The primary drawback to this form is that the penis always remains semierect, which can cause social or physical discomfort for the man. As an alternative, a man can obtain a hydraulic prosthesis which allows the penis to become fully flaccid. Such prostheses are harder with men for neurological conditions to operate because the controls, typically located in or near the testes, usually require some manual dexterity.

Like any surgery, implantation of a penile prosthesis carries risks. Damage to the nerves in the area or to the urethra can occur, and the patient is also at risk of bleeding, infection, pain, or improper placement of the prosthesis. The risks of the procedure can be reduced by using a highly experienced surgeon with an excellent track record. Following the directions of the surgeon after the procedure is also important, to ensure that the surgical site heals properly. If complications do develop and they are severe, a second surgery may be required to replace or remove the prosthesis.

Once a penile prosthesis has been implanted, it is usually necessary to rest to allow the surgical site to heal before utilizing the prosthesis. Men who have been able to achieve erections independently usually notice a change with a penile prosthesis, as the erection tends to be softer and the glans penis does not harden. However, sensation should remain intact.

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