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Erectile Dysfunction Health Center

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Could You Use a Penile Implant?

Often the butt of jokes, inflatable penile implants can be an effective solution for erectile dysfunction.
WebMD Magazine
Reviewed by Sheldon Marks, MD

Urologist Drogo Montague, MD, is the go-to guy for penis implants. No, we’re not talking about the get-big-quick schemes clogging your spam folder. Penis implants enable men with erectile dysfunction, or ED, to get an erection. Most of the 30 million men in the United States who have ED can turn to Viagra and similar drugs. But approximately one-third of them do not respond to medications. That’s where Montague comes in.

Montague directs the Center for Genitourinary Reconstruction in the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at The Cleveland Clinic. Throughout his nearly 40-year career, he has performed more than 2,000 penis implant surgeries for men who can have orgasms but can’t get an erection.

Most men like their implants. Of the three main types of treatment for ED -- pills, injections, and implants -- implants rank highest in patient satisfaction, Montague says. Why? Implants are permanent, have no side effects, and require no follow-up doctor visits. "There is a hassle factor with medications," he says. "You have to fill a prescription, then you have to plan and wait. With injections, you have to give yourself a shot in the penis before making love." Implants prevent the penis from contracting, which means no more shrinkage. Plus, they permit erections on demand.

How penile implants work

The most common implants are inflatable. Here’s how they work: Two cylinders are inserted into the penis. They’re attached to a pump placed in the scrotum and a reservoir fitted just below the groin muscles. In the mood? Simply squeeze the pump. The cylinders fill with a saline solution from the reservoir to create an erection. After intercourse, use the pump to empty the cylinders. (Future implants may be even easier to use.)

The implants come with a small risk of infection as well as mechanical failure. According to Montague, nearly one in 10 implants will break during the first five years. Still, those are pretty good odds for patients not helped by medications.

If you and your doctor decide an implant is the right solution, don’t expect it to make you any bigger than you were before. "There’s no flow of blood to the head of the penis, so your erection might appear a bit shorter after surgery," says Montague. But implants aren't noticeable to anyone who sees your penis, so you're safe in the locker room.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should open any of those penis enlargement emails. "No medication will enlarge it," says Montague. "And there’s no way to make it appear longer and thicker and still look normal." Sorry.

Reviewed on July 02, 2009

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