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What to Know About Urethral Sounding

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 12, 2021

The pursuit of sexual satisfaction has led to an emerging practice among men known as urethral sounding. This practice involves inserting a glass or metal object or fluid into the urethra. The aim is to enhance sexual pleasure by encouraging your partner to explore your penis in several ways. But health specialists have seen an increase in cases of urethral infections, complaints, and sexual function issues as the practice becomes mainstream.

How Does Urethral Sounding Work?

Medically, urethral sounding refers to inserting an object into the urethra for urological surgery. The process helps to dilate the strictures to provide access to the bladder. Medical experts use sterile metal or plastic dilators in the process. Usually, the procedure helps in removing a retained foreign body within the urethra and bladder.

Beyond the scope of medical practice, urethral sounding is common among individuals for a variety of reasons. It encompasses a sexual habit to heighten sexual pleasure and arousal. According to medical literature, there's a high risk of injury associated with the practice. The sounding devices can disappear deep into the urethra and no longer be retrieved by the user.

Potential Health Complications of Urethral Sounding

When you insert objects into your urethra, you run the risk of injury and could bring a variety of psychological illnesses upon yourself. Research shows that the practice is becoming widespread, with Google producing more than 5,550 results for the search phrase “urethral sounding.” Most of these come back with complete instructions and diagrams for the recreational procedure.

Injury. There’s variability in the techniques and types of tools people use in recreational urethral sounding. This puts them at risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs), urethral strictures, loss of the foreign body, and healthcare expenditures.

Ordinary household objects people use for this purpose include:

  • Pencils
  • Screws
  • Wires
  • Glue containers
  • Clips
  • Phallus-shaped fruits and vegetables

Most who end up in the hospital complain of their inability to remove the objects after becoming lodged in their genital cavities. Fortunately, the simple act of seeking medical attention in good time reduces the risk of developing significant complications, especially in individuals without mental health disorders. Concerning complications, they include:

  • Penile necrosis
  • Fistulae wounds
  • Perforation
  • UTIs

Unfortunately, some repeatedly injure themselves for sexual gratification, much to the frustration of their healthcare providers.

Psychiatric disorders. Differentiating between individuals with known psychiatric histories and those without is essential. This is because of the forensic implications of the self-introduction of foreign bodies into the urinary tract. The habit could potentially be due to self-destructive behaviors in an individual. If these behaviors aren't recognized in a clinical setting and a person self-inflicts injury or commits suicide, problems could follow for the clinician, becoming a case of negligent clinical care.

Whether clinicians should perform a psychiatric test on all individuals who come to the emergency room for failed urethral sounding is still controversial.  

Much of the literature available on urethral sounding refers to case reports of individuals who experienced harm from the practice. There's little evidence about the prevalence of the habit in the general population. Still, it could be at 11%, according to a 2012 report. It's also unknown whether this sexual practice poses any additional health risks beyond the injury that requires immediate medical intervention. An in-depth understanding of prevalent, risk-taking behaviors among people who engage in the practice, though, would help further existing research.

One documented case is of a middle-aged man who reported to the emergency department with a telephone wire stuck in his bladder. This was after he introduced it through his urethra, intending to gratify himself through masturbation. His case required open surgery, unlike in most cases where foreign body extractions are done through endoscopy. The man's healthcare providers found no evidence of a psychological disorder in him.

Urethral Strictures. Inserting foreign objects in the urethra blocks the productive flow of urine. This leads to other complications like:

In most cases, medical experts will investigate the penis and urethral tube and recommend surgical correction. In extreme cases, implants will be necessary to alleviate pain and pressure and return the penis to its previous abilities.

Is Urethral Sounding Safe?

Men who are interested in urethral sounding for sexual gratification should first understand the issues around it. Introducing objects into this sensitive passageway poses a health risk. They should purchase the items they use from reputable businesses only and embrace proper cleaning practices of those foreign bodies. They also should use lubrications specially designed for sensitive areas.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Case Reports: “The Practice of 'Urethral Sounding' Complicated by Retained Magnetic Beads Within the Bladder and Urethra: Diagnosis and Review of Management.”

Archives of Sexual Behavior: “Cylindrical glue container into bladder due to sexual practice.”

British Journal of Urology International: "Recreational urethral sounding is associated with high-risk sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted infections.”

Cureus: “Chronic Infectious Complications of Recreational Urethral Sounding With Retained Foreign Body.”

INDIAN JOURNAL OF UROLOGY: “Current management of urethral stricture disease.”

Korean Journal of Urology: “Delayed diagnosis of an intraurethral foreign body causing urosepsis and penile necrosis.”

Spanish Archives of Urology: “Voiding symptoms as presentation of an intravesical foreign body.”

The Canadian Journal of Urology: “Forensic implications in self-insertion of urethral foreign bodies.”

Urology: "Cross-sectional study examining four types of male penile and urethral "play,” “Spider-man, magnets, and urethral-cutaneous fistula.”

Urotoday: “Recreational Urethral Sounding With Telephone Wire: An Unusually Complicated Case Report.”

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