Penile fracture is rupture of one or both of the tunica albuginea, the fibrous coverings that envelop the penis’s corpora cavernosa. It is caused by rapid blunt force to an erect penis, usually during vaginal intercourse, or aggressive masturbation. It sometimes also involves partial or complete rupture of the urethra or injury to the dorsal nerves, veins and arteries.
Signs and symptoms
A popping or cracking sound, significant pain, swelling, immediate loss of erection leading to flaccidity, and skin hematoma of various sizes are commonly associated with the sexual event.
Cross-section of the human penis
Penile fracture is a relatively uncommon clinical condition. Vaginal intercourse and aggressive masturbation are the most common causes.
Ultrasound examination is able to depict the tunica albuginea tear in the majority of cases (as a hypoechoic discontinuity in the normally echogenic tunica). In a study on 25 patients, Zare Mehrjardi et al. concluded that ultrasound is unable to find the tear just when it is located at the penile base. In their study magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) accurately diagnosed all of the tears (as a discontinuity in the normally low signal tunica on both T1- and T2-weighted sequences). They concluded that ultrasound should be considered as the initial imaging method, and MRI can be helpful in cases that ultrasound does not depict any tear but clinical suspicions for fracture are still high. In the same study, authors investigated accuracy of ultrasound and MRI for determining the tear location (mapping of fracture) in order to perform a tailored surgical repair. MRI was more accurate than ultrasound for this purpose, but ultrasound mapping was well correlated with surgical results in cases where the tear was clearly visualized on ultrasound exam. The advantage of ultrasound in the diagnosis of penile fracture is unrivaled when its noninvasive, cost-effective, and nonionising nature are considered.
Penile trauma can result from a blunt or penetrating injury, the latter being rarely investigated by imaging methods, almost always requiring immediate surgical exploration. In the erect penis, trauma results from stretching and narrowing of the tunica albuginea, which can undergo segmental rupture of one or both of the corpora cavernosa, constituting a penile fracture.
In the ultrasound examination, a lesion of the tunica albuginea presents as an interruption in (loss of continuity of) the echoic line representing it . Small, moderate, or broad hematomas demonstrate the extent of that discontinuity. Intracavernous hematomas, sometimes without the presence of a tunica albuginea fracture, can be observed when there is a lesion of the smooth muscle of the trabeculae surrounding the sinusoid spaces or the subtunical venular plexus.
Penile fracture is a medical emergency, and emergency surgical repair is the usual treatment. Delay in seeking treatment increases the complication rate. Non-surgical approaches result in 10–50% complication rates including erectile dysfunction, permanent penile curvature, damage to the urethra and pain during sexual intercourse, while operatively treated patients experience an 11% complication rate.
In some cases, retrograde urethrogram may be performed to rule out concurrent urethral injury