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Nov 16, 2021
4 min read

Broken penis: symptoms, causes, treatments, and recovery

A penile fracture is rare and can occur when an erect penis is bent suddenly and with force and you tear something called the tunica albuginea. This is a strong sheath of fibrous tissue that allows your penis to swell and lengthen, resulting in an erection. You cannot fix a broken penis on your own. It requires urgent medical attention to avoid any serious, long-term health complications.

felix gussone

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD

Written by Michael Martin

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Despite all of the charming euphemisms, your penis doesn’t actually contain any bones. But it is still possible to “break” your penis or suffer a penile fracture.

A penile fracture is very rare and occurs when you tear something called the tunica albuginea. This is a strong, white sheath of fibrous tissue that allows your penis to swell and lengthen, producing an erection (Amer, 2016). A broken penis is a serious problem that you cannot fix on your own. Immediate medical care is needed to prevent further health complications like painful erections or erectile dysfunction (ED)

If you want to avoid a broken penis, prevention is key. Let’s take a look at what causes a penile fracture and what to do on the off-chance it happens to you.

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How do you break your penis?

First, it’s important to note that breaking your penis is rare. The tunica albuginea is very strong and flexible, and it can handle extensive pressure and stress. However, trauma or a sudden bend of the penis can break the tunica albuginea, the corpora cavernosa (the spongy tissue under the tunica albuginea), and in some cases, the urethra (Amer, 2016). 

Many things can cause a penile fracture, but here are some of the more common risk factors (Mirzazadeh, 2017):

  • Vaginal intercourse: According to a 2014 study, around 66% of penile fractures happen during heterosexual intercourse. The most common position it happens in is with the woman on top (around 50% of cases occur this way), and when having sex doggy-style, (when a man enters a woman from behind) (Reis, 2014).
  • Blunt trauma or falls: Quickly turning over in bed on an erect penis can result in a break. While rare, you can also suffer blunt trauma to the penis from falling or landing forcefully on a hard penis.
  • Physical manipulation: In some countries, a particular form of physical manipulation causes penile fractures. It’s a practice known as “taqaandan”, and it involves grabbing the base of your penis and bending the top portion quickly to one side. This leads to a rapid loss of an erection which is often the goal of “taquaandan”, for example, when you want to hide your erection.

Symptoms of a penile fracture

When you tear the tunica albuginea, blood rushes through the opening and essentially the penis “explodes” with blood in the area of the tear. This is why a loud popping or crackling noise (and often severe pain) accompanies a penile break (Diaz, 2021).

Other symptoms of a broken penis include a rapid loss of erection, swelling, hematoma, and discoloration. This leads to what’s known as the “eggplant deformity”, a hemorrhage that gives a fractured penis the appearance of an eggplant  (Diaz, 2021).

Diagnosing a penile fracture

Sometimes a broken penis can be diagnosed without imaging, based on the symptoms and the way the penis looks. The doctor will also ask you about the situation in which you think the penile fracture happened. If imaging is required, the most common types used include (Amer, 2016):

  • Ultrasound: This involves using a handheld device to collect images of the penis using soundwaves.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI scanners collect high-resolution images of the penis.

If the fracture is severe, you may also undergo tests to rule out injury to the urethra as up to 38% of penile fractures include trauma to the urethra (Amit, 2013).

Fixing a broken penis

A broken penis is a medical emergency with potentially lifelong consequences. It usually requires surgery to treat the fracture. If necessary, a surgeon will drain the hematoma and use stitches to repair the tear. These sutures are usually dissolvable, so you won’t need to have them removed later. 

The main goal of surgical treatment is to prevent adverse outcomes like ED. It’s also very important that the surgery is done right away; a delay of even eight hours increases the risk of ED. If you do not treat a broken penis, other long-term complications include scarring, penile curvature, and difficulty with urination or orgasms (Diaz, 2021).

Recovery and outlook

After your surgery, your healthcare team will offer medical advice on what to expect moving forward and will monitor you for any complications. You’ll also be given pain medications and antibiotics, if needed (Amer, 2016). 

Once you’re home, you’ll need to keep the wound clean and avoid sexual intercourse for up to six weeks. Surgery can come with temporary side effects like ED, pain with erections, and a curved penis. Side effects aside, research shows surgical intervention has a success rate of 92% (Mensah, 2010).

When to see a doctor

If you feel pain, hear a pop, experience swelling, or notice any symptoms we mentioned, seek medical care immediately. Prompt treatment of a broken penis can avoid more serious problems down the road, and most men go on to have enjoyable sex lives following treatment (Reis, 2014). 

Of course, not getting a penile fracture is the ultimate goal. Avoiding uncomfortable sexual positions and being mindful of your movements (try to avoid any sudden movements) can help ward off a broken penis.

References

  1. Amer, T., Wilson, R., Chlosta, P., AlBuheissi, S., Qazi, H., Fraser, M., et al. (2016). Penile Fracture: A Meta-Analysis. Urologia Internationalis, 96(3), 315-29. doi: 10.1159/000444884. Retrieved from https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/444884
  2. Amit, A., Arun, K., Bharat, B., Navin, R., Sameer, T., & Shankar, D. U. (2013). Penile fracture associated urethral injury: experience at a tertiary care hospital. Canadian Urological Association Journal, 7, 3–4. doi: 10.5489/cuaj.475. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612405/
  3. Barros, R., Schulze, L., Ornellas, A. A., Koifman, L., & Favorito, L. A. (2017). Relationship between sexual position and severity of penile fracture. International Journal of Impotence Research, 29, 207–209. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/ijir201724
  4. Diaz, K., & Cronovich, H. (2021). Penis fracture. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551618/
  5. Falcone, M., Garaffa, G., Castiglione, F., & Ralph, D. (2018). Current management of penile fracture: an up-to-date systematic review. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 6(2), 253–260. doi: 10.1016/j.sxmr.2017.07.009. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28874325/
  6. Mensah, J. E., Morton, B., & Kyei, M. (2010). Early surgical repair of penile fractures. Ghana Medical Journal, 44(3), 119–122. doi: 10.4314/gmj.v44i3.68898. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996843/  
  7. Mirzazadeh, M., Fallahkarkan, M., & Hosseini, J. (2017). Penile fracture epidemiology, diagnosis and management in Iran: a narrative review. Translational Andrology and Urology, 6(2), 158–166. doi: 10.21037/tau.2016.12.03. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5422687/
  8. Reis, L., Cartapatti, M., Marmiroli, R., de Oliveira Júnior, E. J., Saade, R., & Fregonesi, A. (2014). Mechanisms predisposing penile fracture and long-term outcomes on erectile and voiding functions. Advances in Urology, 2014, 2-4. doi: 10.1155/2014/768158. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24822062/