Everything You Need to Know About Penile Fractures

Medically Reviewed By Roger Bielinski, MD
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A penile fracture occurs when a part of the penis tears or ruptures. A direct injury to the penis, usually during intercourse, can cause it. It is a medical emergency and needs prompt treatment. Without treatment, a penile fracture may impact sexual health, and experts consider it a urological emergency. Usually, treatment for a penile fracture includes surgery.

This article explains what a penile fracture is, what the symptoms are and what can cause it to happen. It also explains how to treat a penile fracture and the recovery process.

What is a penile fracture?

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A penile fracture happens when a part of your penis tears or ruptures, usually from an injury during sexual intercourse.

Penile fractures are rare, and doctors consider them medical emergencies.

How does a penile fracture happen?

Applying forceful pressure to an erect penis can rupture a membrane called the tunica albuginea. The tunica albuginea envelopes the length of the penis or corpora cavernosa, helping you remain erect during sexual excitement.

Your corpora cavernosa are the two spongy chambers in the penile shaft that fill with blood during an erection. A severe vertical penile fracture can damage your tunica albuginea, corpus cavernosum, and urethra. 

Your tunica albuginea is taut when your penis is erect, and blood fills the corpora cavernosa. When you apply pressure to an erect penis, the increase in pressure can cause the membrane to burst. After the tunica albuginea tears, blood can pool under the skin of your penis.

This injury happens more when the penis is erect. When the penis is not erect, it is more flexible and will bend to absorb the impact. 

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “female” and “male” and “men” and “women” when discussing people assigned male or female at birth to reflect language in source materials.

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.

What are symptoms of a penile fracture?

When the tunica albuginea membrane tears during an injury, you may feel or hear a popping sound. Your shaft may bend at an unusual angle because the membrane no longer maintains its shape.

Some other symptoms of penile fracture include:

  • swift loss of erection
  • blood at the tip
  • shaft or abdomen bruising
  • severe, sudden pain

If you have a penile fracture, it might be difficult to have an erection, or your erection may be uneven. Sometimes, you may experience a mild penile fracture without pain. 

When should you contact a doctor?

Contact a doctor if you suspect that you have a penile fracture. Experts consider it a medical emergency that requires swift intervention.

If you hear a pop during intercourse, followed by severe pain and a quick loss of your erection, get appropriate medical care immediately. A penile fracture will not heal itself.

A 2021 case report showed that prompt medical treatment can prevent further damage due to an untreated penile fracture. Delaying medical treatment by just 8 hours can result in an increased risk of erectile dysfunction. 

What causes a penile fracture?

A direct, forceful injury to an erect penis can cause a vertical penile fracture. Research indicates penile fractures happen most commonly in men ages 30–50 during intercourse.

The erect penis may slip out during sexual intercourse and hit your partner’s pelvic bone instead of reinserting.

You can also develop a penile fracture from:

  • sports
  • car accidents
  • machine accidents
  • falls or rolling over with an erect penis

How do you diagnose a penile fracture?

A urologist can diagnose your vertical penile fracture. A urologist is a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the urinary system. During a visit with your urologist, they may:

  • ask questions about your symptoms and the events leading up to the fracture
  • visually assess the area
  • look for swelling or bruising
  • check if the penis is bent at an angle
  • assess your pain level

They may also determine where the rupture occurred with the following tests:

They may also perform a retrograde urethrogram, which is when they gently inject dye into your urethra to check for damage.

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How do you treat a penile fracture?

Your doctor will usually recommend surgical intervention to repair the tear or rupture. If blood pools in the penis, your doctor will need to remove it to reduce the pressure.

If there is damage to your urethra, they will repair it with the tunica albuginea or corpora cavernosa tear. Your surgeon may use absorbable sutures to repair the tear. 

Recovery and aftercare

You may need to use a catheter for about 4 weeks while your wounds heal. A catheter is a hollow tube that a doctor will insert into your urethra to help drain your bladder. Refrain from sexual intercourse until your doctor clears you.

Keep the surgical incisions clean and dry to prevent infection. Refrain from shaving around the sutures. 

What are the complications of a penile fracture?

Possible complications of a vertical penile fracture include:

  • painful erections
  • erectile dysfunction
  • pain or anxiety during sexual intercourse
  • penile curvature
  • urinary disorders
  • reduction in penis length

Summary

A penile fracture is an injury in which your penis fractures or tears. You could injure the urethra, tunica albuginea, and corpus cavernosum during this urological emergency. Symptoms may include bruising, a penis bent at an unusual angle, and difficulty urinating.

Aggressive sexual intercourse is a major cause of penile fractures, but any activity that forcefully bends the penis can cause injury.

Prompt surgical intervention can help repair your injury. You may need to use a catheter for about 4 weeks after surgery. Complications of penile fracture include painful sex, erectile dysfunction, and urinary disorders. Immediate surgical intervention can help reduce the chance of developing complications. 

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Medical Reviewer: Roger Bielinski, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 27
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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