First-Ever Reported Case Of Vertical Penile Fracture- BMJ
Get authentic, real-time news that helps you fight COVID-19 better.
Install PlexusMD App for doctors. It's free.
A penile fracture is defined as a tear of the tunica albuginea, surrounding the corpus cavernosa. It occurs when the erect penis is subjected to an abnormal ‘bending’ force, inducing an acute increase in intracavernosal pressures, exceeding the tensile strength of the tunica albuginea, which is approximately 1500 mm Hg, resulting in a tear, or so called ‘fracture.

Up to 88.5% of penile fractures occur during sexual intercourse, with a 20-year retrospective study concluding ‘doggy style’ and ‘man on top’ as the two main etiological positions. Other lesser reported causes include masturbation, sleeping prone and ‘taqaandan’ (the practice of forcible detumescence performed primarily in Middle Eastern countries).

This injury is most prevalent among men in their 40s, whom classically report a ‘popping’ sensation and immediate detumescence, following blunt trauma. On examination, the penis will be grossly swollen and ecchymotic (the so-called ‘eggplant’ sign) with a palpable ‘rolling’ sign. In up to 71% of cases, it is the right corpora which fractures, causing the penis to bend to the left.

The British Association of Urological Surgeons recommend operative intervention within 24 hours, to reduce the risk of long-term complications including erectile dysfunction, excessive penile curvature or urethral stenosis. A penile MRI is not essential in confirming the diagnosis (especially if it is likely to delay operative intervention), however there is growing evidence supporting its role, particularly if there is concern regarding urethral involvement.

In July 2020, a PubMed literature review confirmed that all documented cases in the English language, report a ‘transverse’ fracture of the tunica albuginea. In turn, authors present the first documented case of a vertical penile fracture, confirmed on MRI, sustained by a 40-year-old man during sexual intercourse.

The patient reported that his penis buckled against his partner’s perineum. Interestingly, he described a gradual detumescence, with moderate swelling but no ‘popping’ sensation. Moreover, there was no palpable ‘rolling’ sign on examination. Given the presentation, a penile MRI was deemed appropriate in order to exclude a ruptured dorsal vessel and/or suspensory ligament.

The MRI confirmed a vertical disruption of the tunica albuginea at the ventral aspect of the right corpus cavernosum, along the medial third of the penile shaft. Guided by the MRI, the surgeon was able to target his exploration, confirming that indeed there was a 3 cm vertical tear. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, medical photography was prohibited.

Based on the literature review of the studies which specifically documented the fracture pattern, all were noted as being transverse, meaning that all other findings were based on transverse fractures and not vertical. Not only does this highlight the rarity of this case, but it also raises the question: Does a vertical penile fracture pattern alter either the presentation or long-term outcomes following operative repair?