A penile implant is an option for patients who lack sufficient penile rigidity for penetration. The placement of a penile implant is a surgical procedure that may require an overnight stay in the hospital. There are two general types of penile implants; semi-rigid and inflatable.
The first type, the semi-rigid rods, are placed in the two erectile bodies of the penis. This type of implant is firm all the time, but can be bent to the side when not in use. Semi-rigid rods are the least complicated type of implant, however, patients do not experience increased girth or rigidity for sexual activity. Additionally, some men note that the continuous state of near erection can be bothersome. We implant far more inflatable devices than semirigid ones.
The second group of implants are the multi-component inflatable devices. These devices incorporate a separate pump and fluid reservoir. When an erection is desired, the bulb on the pump is compressed about 10 times. This forces fluid from the reservoir into the penile cylinders and causes the erectile bodies to expand producing a rigid erection. Inflatable implants can be deflated by compressing the 3/4 inch scrotal pump in a particular way.
Most patients who have had penile implants are satisfied with the results. One recent study reported 90% of both patients and their partners to be very happy with the device. Penile implants do sometimes have problems, however. Implant manufacturers are required to maintain records of every device implanted. Review of these records from American Medical Systems, the major manufacturer of inflatable devices, shows that 5.3% of the current generation inflatable prostheses have been removed by three years. Mechanical failure (2.6%) and infections (1.2%) were the most common reasons for removal. Clearly a penile implant is a mechanical device that can experience failure. If a device does fail, another surgical procedure is required to either correct the problem with the existing device or replace it with a new one.
Semi-rigid penile implants have a lower mechanical failure rate, although they do not produce as good a post-surgical result. Also, semi-rigid devices are more prone to other types of problems.