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Is My Penis Too Small?

Micropenis, Inconspicuous Penis Less Common Than Small Penis Syndrome
(continued)

Can Surgery Make a Small Penis Larger? continued...

Most men do not know that only about two-thirds of their penis protrudes from their bodies. The other third, held in place with ligaments, provides the leverage for sexual function.

One surgical technique cuts these tendons and allows the penis to protrude another inch or two. Gilbert takes a dim view of the technique, because the penis loses its leverage.

"When surgeons take the inside part of the penis and move it out, the most common outcome is their erection no longer goes up but down," he says. "If a man is unhappy with his penis length, he is going to be unhappy with a penis he has to pick up and insert. I've had men ask me, 'Can you put it back the way it was?'"

Gilbert says that because of the high complication rate, malpractice insurance rarely covers penis-lengthening procedures.

All of these procedures are considered "experimental surgery." Severe complications include -- but are not limited to -- penis shortening, a lumpy or uneven appearance, scarring, sexual dysfunction, and curvature of the penis. These complications often cannot be corrected.

Can Devices Make a Small Penis Larger?

Traction devices that stretch the penis may actually add an inch or so to penis length, based on small studies and anecdotal reports. Gilbert says he is following two patients who are using these devices in an effort to make their penises longer.

"These devices have to be worn for several hours a day, for many months," he says. "Most people, even if they are highly motivated, don't have that kind of time. So I'm not sure a lot of patients have the time or energy or perseverance to do that."

Vacuum devices may help men with erectile dysfunction achieve an erection -- but they do not make the penis larger.

Can Regenerative Medicine Make a Small Penis Larger?

However, there is one area of research with intriguing possibilities: regenerative medicine. Scientists have been able to grow animal penises in the laboratory by seeding scaffolds with the animals' own cells. These penises then were successfully transplanted.

Already a group of researchers in Beijing, China, have reported using a similar technique to treat 69 patients with what they called small penis syndrome. In this case, the tissues were grown from the patients' own scrotal skin and grafted to their penises to increase their girth.

"With regenerative medicine, the sky is the limit," Palmer says. "We might have this as an option down the line."

"Regenerative medicine is still not ready for prime time," Gilbert says. "These things have a lot of potential, but nothing we can offer to patients in the near future."

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Reviewed on January 19, 2012
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