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A penile fracture is a tearing of the tunica albuginea, the group of tissue enveloping the two corpus cavernosa in the penis. These two structures are essential in maintaining an erection; as such, a fracture of the penis can severely limit an individual's ability to perform in sexual intercourse. The most common cause of this injury is blunt trauma, although wear and tear over time can contribute to its occurrence. Treatment usually involves surgery, as well as a strict set of guidelines to be followed post-procedure. If left untreated, a penile fracture can lead to medical complications and psychological issues.
The two structures involved in a penile fracture, the corpus cavernosum penis and the tunica albuginea, play vital roles in a man's sexual health. The corpus cavernosa is the elastic erectile tissue group that contains the blood that rushes to the penis during arousal, resulting in an erection. The tunica albuginea, on the other hand, contains Buck's fascia, a structure that constricts around the penis' main dorsal vein, preventing blood from exiting and subsequently maintaining the erection. Damage to the tunica albuginea can weaken its ability to keep blood in the corpus cavernosa, resulting in sexual dysfunction.
Blunt trauma is the cause of a majority of penile fracture cases. A sudden and powerful blow to the penis can cause a tear in the tunica albuginea. This most commonly occurs when the patient is at a state of arousal and is struck on the penis in such a way that it bends abnormally; fractures usually happens during overly-rough intercourse, or physical accidents that impact the penis. Constant abuse of the penis can also weaken the tunica albuginea, making it more prone to severe damage.
Individuals experience intense pain at the onset of a penile fracture. In many cases, patients report hearing an audible pop, as though a bone had broken. This is likely due to the rupturing of the tissue, accompanied by the sudden escape of blood from the corpus cavernosa. The penis almost immediately becomes flaccid, and the pain and discomfort linger for long after the injury. Blotches caused by internal bleeding might appear on the skin.
Although some individuals recommend non-surgical penile fracture treatment — often with the use of splints — many doctors advise treating the injury as a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery. Up to 50% of non-surgical procedures to repair a fracture of the penis result in complications, including permanent sexual dysfunction, penis disfigurement, and further internal damage. Patients who delay penile fracture surgery might also experience anxiety and depression issues involving the injury and its effects.