Using penile implants after prostate cancer surgery

Two men hugging each other on the couch

Penile implants (also called penile prostheses) are devices to help you get an erection. These implants are put into your penis during a short operation, and usually an option when other treatments to produce erections have failed or cannot be used due to other reasons.

Types of penile implants

There are two main types of penile implants. There are those that stay partly hard (malleable or semi-rigid) all the time and those that need to be inflated before you have sex. Both types are put into the shaft of the penis, but each type works differently and has various pros and cons.

Malleable or semi-rigid penile implants

In this type of implant, the surgeon inserts two flexible rods into your penis which you can easily set into different positions. They usually point downwards but can be moved into an upward position for sexual activity. If you get a malleable implant, you do not need to use a pump as the implant’s size and stiffness never change. This does, however, mean:

  • Your penis will always be semi-rigid—never fully hard or soft—which could be uncomfortable

  • The implant may be more difficult to hide under your clothes

  • The tissue inside your penis could be damaged by the implant pressing on the inside

Inflatable penile implants

Inflatable implants have two cylinders in the penis, a pump in the scrotum and a sack of fluid, which is salt water, all implanted during surgery. The sack of fluid can be either in the abdomen (3-piece inflatable) or as part of the pump (2-piece inflatable) and is filled at the time of surgery.

An inflatable implant needs to be pumped up before sex. As you squeeze and release the pump, a fluid fills the cylinders and produces an erection. After sex, you release a valve inside the scrotum and your erection will go down or deflate.

How effective are penile implants?

Penile implants are highly successful in producing erections. They work for 9 out of 10 men and have a high satisfaction rate with men and their partners. Penile implants are considered the most invasive type of treatment for erectile dysfunction, so it comes down to how comfortable you are with trying it out.

Choosing a penile implant

When choosing the penile implant that’s right for you, there are multiple factors things to consider. As well as your personal preference, your age, medical history, other health conditions and risk of infection can affect the choice of penile implant. Your doctor will work with you to help choose the most suitable implant.

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