Protect your most private part from injury. By John Von Arnim.
One of the unexpected upsides of a long-running TV series is that the writers have to dig deep to come up with fresh storylines. Cop shows toss terms like corpus delicti into play and medical dramas thrust little known ailments and diseases into the spotlight. Years ago, Google battled to cope with a tidal wave of queries after Grey’s Anatomy gave penile fractures their 15 minutes of fame in an episode ironically titled “Stairway to Heaven”. McSteamy la-k-a Dr Mark Sloan) was caught with more than his pants down as he enjoyed a quickie in the on-call room with intern Lexie Grey. Sloan was with the right woman, though. As a trainee surgeon, Lexie would have known that her lover needed surgical attention as soon as she heard his penis make the distinctive “popping” sound that signals a penile fracture. Most men wouldn’t. They are so embarrassed they usually try to treat the accompanying swelling like a bruise — with ice, an analgesic and a good lie-down.
What Is It?
Fracture is the wrong word, in spite of the widespread use of the term “boner”. Rupture is more accurate because that’s what happens when an erect rigid penis suffers a blunt trauma. The penis is made up of two sponge-like bodies—the tunica albuginea (“white tunic”), a fibrous tissue that surrounds the corpus cavemosum, the part of the organ that swells with blood to produce an erection. When the penis is over-bent or meets with too much pressure, the tunica albuginea tears and causes the immediate loss of the erection.
The condition is easy to diagnose, even to an untrained eye. The penis curves like a boomerang to one side and, although there’s no leakage of blood to the surface, a small lump appears under the skin as the engorged blood seeps out of the corpus cavemosum because of the rip in the surrounding tissue. In some cases, urination becomes painful or difficult because of the bruising and swelling.
When Is It Likely To Happen?
Usually during vigorous sex which is why penile fractures are more common in younger men. Most cases happen, as Sloan’s did, when the woman is on top because her movements put more torque on the penis. Beware of an office affair, too. Many penile fractures occur when a couple are having sex with the man standing and the woman sitting on a desk. One wild thrust and the guy can find himself pushing his penis into the office furniture. Doggie-style is another danger zone. One slip and you could hit your partner’s perineum — hard. It doesn’t always take two to do the damage, either. Masturbation can also lead to penile fractures.
The use of drugs like Viagra has also caused a surge in penile fractures because longer love-making leads to riskier sex.
How Common Is It?
No one really knows because many cases go unreported. In the US, 2,000 cases of penile fracture are officially reported each year, but doctors estimate that the incidence could be as high as 5,000 to 10,000 a year. Facts are even more difficult to come by in Australia with official stars from medical authorities recording less than 1,500 cases in the past 60 years. Which means that Australian men are either less adventurous in the sack, very careful or prefer to suffer pain rather than disclosure.
It’s not just shame that makes many men attempt to “cure” a penile fracture with an ice pack. Up until recently, the medical treatment was ice, rest and splinting. Even if the pain is mild, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible because even a small bruise can lead to scarring. In more severe cases, the urethra —the tube that carries urine—can be damaged.
Prompt surgery is the only way to fix a “fractured” penis. Untreated penile fractures can lead to erectile dysfunction, chronic pain and changes in the shape of the penis in later life. The procedure takes about an hour, during which the penis is cut and the tunica albuginea is repaired and closed with sutures. Recovery time is four to six weeks and performance is just the same as before. The only “after care” advice is not to get into positions that bend, buckle or bang the “family jewels” so hard.