Penile implants — or penile prostheses — are permanent devices that give a man the ability to have an erection.
These devices have been available for more than 40 years and are implanted through a surgical procedure.
How penile prostheses differ
Inflatable (also called hydraulic implants) typically include the use of:
Depending upon the model of the implant, it might include two or three pieces. When a man desires an erection, he:
After intercourse, the man “deflates” the erection either by pressing a valve, which is connected to the pump, or bending the penis. The saltwater is then released back into the reservoir.
While three-piece implants have larger reservoirs — which may aid in the strength of an erection — when not in use, it has been reported that the penis may appear to be more fuller than normal.
Semi-rigid implants generally include a type of metal or plastic rod that is implanted. This causes the penis to hang at an angle where it is close to being fully erect. But it can be bent to be concealed under clothing.
Rigid implants use the same type of materials as semi-rigid implants, but the penis is permanently hard and erect. They are not as discreet.
While inflatable implants may be more complicated to implant, they seem to have gained in popularity.
This is probably because they allow a man to control when he wants (or does not want) an erection.
May erode over time
All three types of implants may erode over time. There is also the possibility that an inflatable device may stop working correctly.
Cornell University reports that:
Risk of infection
Cornell University also reports that the chance of post-operative infection may be low.
But if infection does occur, the device may need to be removed. This can lead to scarring or shorten the length of a man’s penis. If this occurs, a man may not be able to get another implant.
What penile prostheses do not do
Penile implants do not:
What they can do is make it easier for a man to have intercourse
if he has erection problems following prostate cancer treatment.
Before getting one
Discuss with your doctor:
Saleh H, Abboudi H, Ghazal-Aswad M, et al. Management of erectile dysfunction post-radical prostatectomy. Res Rep Urol. 2015; 7: 19–33.
Bostwick DG, Crawford DE, Higano CS, Roach M, eds. American Cancer Society’s Complete Guide to Prostate Cancer. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society Health Promotions; 2005.
Cornell University. Penile Implants. http://www.cornellurology.com/sexualmedicine/ed/implant.shtml. Accessed December 6, 2008.
Always consult a medical professional.