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Learning About Penile Implants

Inside view of inflatable penile implant, in both relaxed and erect positions, showing the penis, scrotum, reservoir, cylinders, and pump

What is a penile implant?

A penile implant is a device to treat erection problems. It makes the penis firm enough for sex. The implant replaces the spongy tissue in the penis that fills with blood during an erection. There are several types of implants.

Why is it 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.

What kinds are there?

There are two types of penile implants.

Non-inflatable (or semirigid).

This implant is always firm. It can be bent into different positions.

Inflatable.

There are two kinds of inflatable implants.

  • A three-chamber inflatable implant has:
    • Two cylinders in the shaft of the penis.
    • A reservoir in the belly that holds salt water.
    • A pump in the scrotum to move the salt water from the reservoir to the cylinders.
    • A release valve on the pump to move the salt water from the cylinders back to the reservoir.
  • A two-chamber inflatable implant has the reservoir at the bottom of the cylinders (at the base of the penis) and the pump and release valve in the scrotum.

How do they work?

Non-inflatable (or semirigid).

You bend a non-inflatable implant outward to have sex. You bend it back toward your body after sex.

Inflatable.

You create an erection by pumping salt water out of the reservoir and into the cylinders. After sex, the release valve on the pump drains the salt water back into the reservoir.

The three-chamber implant usually works better than a two-chamber implant. But placing it is a slightly more complicated surgery.

How well do they work?

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.

What are the 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.

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