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Penile Implants for Erection Problems

Surgery Overview

Penile implants to treat erection problems (erectile dysfunction) are either semirigid (noninflatable) or inflatable cylinders. They replace the spongy tissue (corpora cavernosum) inside the penis that fills with blood during an erection. The implants come in a variety of diameters and lengths.

Noninflatable (or semirigid) implants are always firm. They can be bent into different positions (outward to have sex and back toward the body to conceal under clothing).

There are two-chamber and three-chamber inflatable implants. Both have cylinders in the shaft of the penis, a reservoir that holds salt water, and a pump to move the salt water from the reservoir to the cylinders. You create an erection by pumping salt water out of the reservoir and into the cylinders.

Surgery will be done using regional or general anesthesia. The implants are inserted through an incision made in the penis, lower belly, or scrotum. A thin flexible tube (catheter) is inserted briefly up the urethra and into the bladder to drain urine.

A three-chamber implant is usually more reliable than a two-chamber implant. Inserting the three-chamber implant is a slightly more complicated surgery.

What To Expect

You likely will stay 1 or 2 days in the hospital. You will take antibiotics for up to 2 weeks after surgery to prevent infection.

The urinary catheter is used for about 1 day after surgery.

Do not wear tight underwear or clothing until the surgical incision has healed. People with inflatable implants may need to avoid tight clothing for 6 weeks to avoid pushing the saline reservoir out of position.

You can typically return to strenuous physical activity and sex after about a month. Inflatable implants usually aren't inflated for a month.

Why It Is Done

Penile implants are an option for men who can't get or keep an erection that's firm enough for sex.

Implants may be used when erection problems have a physical cause, such as:

  • Diabetes.
  • Pelvic surgery.
  • Blood vessel disease.
  • Injury to the pelvis, genitals, or spinal cord.
  • Peyronie's disease. This is a curve in the penis caused by scar tissue.

How Well It Works

Experts agree that penile implants are likely to help with erection problems. There are reports that most men are satisfied with the results.

Implants allow an erection that's firm enough for sex whenever and as often as a man wants. And the erection can last for as long as he wants.

Implants don't affect ejaculation. Ejaculation and orgasm may or may not happen. Implants don't affect sexual desire.

Penile implants usually don't need to be replaced.

Risks

The site of the implant may become infected. If the infection is severe, the implant must be removed.

Sometimes, the implant may have to be removed because of pain.

Other possible problems include:

  • The risk of the surgery itself.
  • Injury to tissue near the implant. This is called erosion.
  • A leak or break in the implant.

Penile implant surgery isn't reversible. This means that if the implant is removed, there aren't any other kinds of treatments for erection problems that will work. But the implant may be replaced.

Credits

Current as of: February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Christopher G. Wood MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology