Everything You Need to Know About a Penile Fracture

December 07,2022 |
Doctor talking to her patient.

The male reproductive system is an intricate, albeit sensitive, group of organs. There are several possibilities for injury, which is why it’s important to take preventative care. While most traumas can be treated, they’re often associated with a lot of discomfort. This is especially true in the case of penile fractures. To help you better understand what this is, how it happens, and what to do if it happens to you, here’s everything you need to know about a penile fracture.


What is a Penile Fracture?

A penile fracture is a type of injury that occurs to the penis. However, it’s not a fracture in the traditional sense as there are no bones within the penile sheath or organ. With that being said, you can still technically “break” your penis. When it happens, it usually occurs closer to the abdomen in the lower two-thirds of the penis.

The shaft of the penis is made up of two separate columns. These columns are the corpus cavernosum and the corpora cavernosa, both of which act similar to sponges. When flaccid, the columns are free from blood. When erect, blood fills the columns and makes the penis hard. Although these internal columns are covered by a protective layer called the tunica albuginea, damage can occur. A penile fracture is the medical term when the protective tunica albuginea is torn open.

Penile Fracture Symptoms

Although experiencing a penile fracture may be alarming, it’s important to examine yourself for any sign that could indicate an issue. In some instances, a complete fracture may not have occurred. To help differentiate between the two, there are several symptoms that you should be aware of. In addition to discomfort or a sudden feeling of pain following an injury, penile fractures may cause:

  • Bleeding from the penis
  • Sudden loss of erection
  • Pain ranging from mild to severe
  • A popping or cracking sound
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dark-colored bruises
  • Purple coloring
  • Swelling
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swelling of the scrotum
  • A bent penis

Penile fractures will almost always be associated with a popping or cracking sound and a rapid loss of erection. If you do not experience either of these, but other symptoms are present, it’s likely an indication of another type of injury. For example, ruptured veins within the penis can create dark-colored bruises, a purplish color, swelling, and potential bleeding. Regardless, any indication that damage occurred should be checked by your urologist to be safe. If you think you may have suffered a penile fracture or are unsure whether you heard a sound or not, seek medical attention immediately. Treatment is time sensitive, so it’s worth undergoing diagnostics to be sure.

Although penile fractures are quite rare, they are considered a serious medical emergency and require treatment as soon as possible. If you experienced any of the symptoms, seek medical attention immediately to reduce the risk of long-term damage or complications.


Causes of a Penile Fracture

The primary cause of a penile fracture is trauma or bending of the shaft. This causes the tunica albuginea to break open, which requires immediate medical attention. The most common reasons that penile fractures occur are due to a forceful, unintentional bending of the penis during vaginal intercourse, over-energetic masturbation, or falling onto your erection. If you suspect your penis has been fractured, don’t hesitate to see a medical professional. Although you may think it is an embarrassing mishap, ignoring the problem can lead to long-lasting complications.

Risk Factors for Penile Fractures

Penile fractures are most common during sexual intercourse and there are some risk factors that may increase the likelihood of occurrence. Certain positions during intercourse increase the chances of a penile fracture, but this tends to depend on the couple and their varying anatomy. The best thing to do is to try to find something that works for you and your partner. You should also try to avoid walking around dark rooms if you have an erection, as this could increase the risk of falling. If you land on your erection, it could result in a penile fracture.


When to See Your Doctor

This can’t be stressed enough, but it’s important to see your doctor at the first sign of a penile fracture. The sooner it’s addressed, the better the prognosis. Your doctor may perform diagnostic testing using a specialized X-ray called a cavernosography to check for signs of damage to the tunica albuginea. Alternatively, a penile ultrasound may be performed or an MRI that’s targeted on the genital region. Additionally, testing may be required to determine the extent of the damage to the urethra, which is fairly common in men who experience penile fractures.


Penile Fracture Treatment and Recovery

The only way to treat a penile fracture is through surgery. This is because the tunica albuginea needs to be repaired, which lines the shaft beneath the skin. During the procedure, a surgeon will close the tear using stitches. During this time, they’ll also assess the area for other signs of damage, such as to the urethra or interior corpus cavernosum.

When treated early, the likelihood of restored penile function is high. However, during the recovery period it’s important to follow your doctor’s post-op plans meticulously. This will involve taking the proper pain medications and antibiotics and refraining from intercourse for at least a month. Your doctor may recommend waiting longer depending on the severity and location of the damage. If your doctor tells you not to have intercourse for one month or longer, it’s essential that you heed this advice. Engaging in sexual intercourse any sooner could cause strain on the healing tunica albuginea, which could lead to further damage or a repeated penile fracture. Early repeated fractures can be more difficult to repair and lead to long-term damage.

You’ll also need to see your doctor regularly to undergo imaging tests during the healing process. This ensures your progress is monitored closely and the tear is healing as it should. It also allows your doctor to test blood flow restoration to the area. During healing, your doctor may recommend using a Foley catheter to help empty the bladder without causing additional trauma to the penis. In some instances, specialized splints are used to help with at-home healing.


Prognosis of a Penile Fracture

Although it might not seem like a big deal, suffering from a penile fracture can have lasting results. The best thing to do is to go to an emergency room as soon as possible following the incident. The sooner you’re treated, the better the outlook. Ideally, this should be within 24 hours of the fracture or injury. When done in a timely manner, surgery for penile fractures tend to have a 90% success rate. In some cases, men may experience long-lasting side effects of a fracture. These tend to include curvature of the penis, erectile dysfunction, fistulas, and, in some cases, painful erections.

If you’ve recently suffered from a penile fracture or are experiencing another urological problem, it’s important to have the right supplies on hand. Using the proper products and supplies can help reduce embarrassing symptoms, alleviate discomfort, and aid in the healing process. Byram Healthcare offers a wide range of urology supplies such as catheters and incontinence care to provide a customized approach to treating urologic conditions. Browse our urology products today and have them discreetly delivered at your door—most orders ship within 2-3 days.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.