Can you really break your penis!?

Q: I saw a guy on Grey’s Anatomy who supposedly fractured his penis.  Is that really possible!?

A: Yes, my friend, unfortunately that was not pure Hollywood make-believe.  While it’s pretty rare, you can actually “break” your best friend. 

Now, despite the ever-popular slang term for an erect penis, there is no actual bone involved.  Penises become erect when blood flows into two side-by-side spongy, cylindrical tubes called the corpus cavernosa.  These tubes are surrounded by a layer of connective tissue called the tunica albuginea.  If an erect penis is forcefully or suddenly bent, the tunica albuginea can rupture – this is a penile fracture. 

Penile fractures usually occur during aggressive sexual activity, but can happen during any activity in which an erect penis is subjected to blunt trauma.   There has actually been a case report of a running back suffering a penile fracture while getting tackled.  (It must’ve been a really exciting game… )

Penile fractures are extremely painful and are often accompanied by an audible “pop” or “snap” sound.  They cause immediate bruising and swelling of the penis, and blood will often leak out of the tip. 

Penile fractures are a surgical emergency – if they are left untreated, they can lead to penile deformities and erectile dysfunction.  If you experience any of the above symptoms, you need to get to your nearest emergency room ASAP.

Adam Brandeberry, Med IV (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)