Semirigid penile prosthesis: technique and review of literature
Review Article

Semirigid penile prosthesis: technique and review of literature

Garrick M. Greear, Fady M. Ghali, Tung-Chin Hsieh

Department of Urology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

Contributions: (I) Conception and design: All authors; (II) Administrative support: None; (III) Provision of study materials or patients: TC Hsieh; (IV) Collection and assembly of data: All authors; (V) Data analysis and interpretation: All authors; (VI) Manuscript writing: All authors; (VII) Final approval of manuscript: All authors.

Correspondence to: Tung-Chin Hsieh, MD. Department of Urology, 200 W Arbor Dr # 8220, San Diego, CA 92103, USA. Email:

Abstract: Since the development and popularization of the malleable semirigid device in 1973, penile prosthetic surgery has played a critical role in the management of end-stage erectile dysfunction. Several prostheses have come into use, most broadly categorized into semirigid penile prosthesis (SRPP) and inflatable penile prosthesis (IPP). In recent decades, SRPP use has declined with the advent of IPP, though there are still clinical settings for which this technique is most appropriate. We present a brief review of the indications, perioperative practices, and our surgical technique for SRPP implantation as well as a review of complications and device reliability.

Keywords: Penile prosthesis; semirigid; erectile dysfunction; Peyronie’s disease

Received: 02 April 2019; Accepted: 28 October 2019; Published: 05 April 2020.

doi: 10.21037/jovs.2019.11.07


First described in 1973, malleable penile prosthetics were quickly established as important therapeutic options for both erectile dysfunction, Peyronie’s disease, and other pathologies (1,2). Penile prosthetics are made by several manufacturers and can be categorized as semirigid penile prosthesis (SRPP) and inflatable penile prosthesis (IPP). Several important indications exist for the use of SRPP. Erectile dysfunction (ED) or Peyronie’s disease have long been the most common indications for penile prosthetic implantation. In the era of oral phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors, the penile prosthesis is often reserved for men with medically refractory ED (3-5). SRPP may be particularly useful for men who have limited dexterity that might prevent them from pump operation of IPP, which has the advantage of being able to cycle through an erect and flaccid state mimicking normal physiology.

Recurrent priapism, or priapism refractory to conservative measures, can also safely be treated with corporal dilation and IPP/SRPP insertion (6). Another important indication for SRPP insertion is in the setting of salvage of penile prosthesis infection, though careful patient selection is essential (7). Long-term infection free rates up to 93% have been reported in the salvage setting (8,9). Finally, SRPPs have played an important role in the quality of life improvement in men with neurologic impairment and urinary incontinence. Reflex penile retraction can make condom catheter fitting untenable and SRPP insertion can provide adequate penile body to affix the condom urinal (8).

Perioperative antibiotic practices

Device infection is a feared complication of prosthetics surgery, and there is no universal consensus on optimal antibiotic practices in the setting of penile prosthesis insertion. The American Urologic Association Best Practice Statement on antimicrobial prophylaxis recommends the use of an aminoglycoside and a 1st or 2nd generation cephalosporin or vancomycin for 24 hours (9). Our practice is to administer perioperative intravenous vancomycin and piperacillin-tazobactam for 24 hours. The prosthetic is bathed in a bacitracin antibiotic solution. Post-operative prophylaxis with oral trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole is given for 7 days. Emerging literature suggests antifungal coverage might be necessary in certain high-risk settings (10).

Surgical technique

A penoscrotal approach is taken. This is distinctly advantageous in obese patients and greatly simplifies the operation by excellent exposure of the corporal and urethral anatomy. Placement of a urethral catheter facilitates preservation of the corpus spongiosum during dissection. A horizontal incision is made just below the penoscrotal junction. Dissection is carried through the dartos fascia to expose the corpora cavernosa on either side. Sutures (2-0 PDS) are pre-placed and vertical corporotomies made symmetrically on each side. Metzenbaum scissors are used to start the corporal dissection and establish a tract in the corporal tissue proximally and distally. Dilation is performed with the Dilamezinsert device before the corpora are sized. It is important to undersize by about 0.5 to 1 cm to avoid erosion from constant distal pressure within the glans. The implant is prepared on the back table after soaking in bacitracin antibiotic solution. After insertion of the prosthesis the corporotomies are closed with 2-0 delayed absorbable monofilament suture. An instructional video has been prepared to demonstrate our approach (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Semirigid penile prosthesis (11). Available online:


Patients report high satisfaction rates after penile prosthesis surgery, regardless of semirigid or inflatable type (12). Rates of complications are generally low: hematoma (0.2–3.6%) (13), floppy glans (0.2–0.9%) (14), urethral injury (0.1–4%) (15), vascular, bladder, bowel injury (rare) (15). The rate of infection with virgin implantation varies in the literature between <1% to 4%, with multiple factors likely at play (16). Modern infection rates tend to fall at the lower end of the spectrum. There is evidence of an increased risk of infection in spinal cord injury patients, those on long term steroids, and smokers. The increased risk in diabetics is controversial (17). Revision implantation is known to have a higher risk of infection, up to 13.3% (18). Infection risk is highest in the peri-operative period, but can occur at any time. Gram positive organisms are the most common isolates in early prosthetic infections and are likely indicative of contamination by skin flora, while late infections tend to be gram negative organisms thought to be contracted by hematogenous seeding (19).


There have been no significant differences reported in revision rates of semi-rigid devices and inflatable prostheses (13). Recent long-term data suggest 5- and 10-year device survival rates of 88.8% and 84.3% respectively (14). Pain, infection, mechanical failure, and overall dissatisfaction are all possible indications for revision or device removal. A limitation common to most studies of device revision rates is that the indication for removal/revision is often not reported.


The SRPP is an important therapeutic option in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Placement of a semirigid prosthesis via a penoscrotal incision is a straightforward procedure with a low risk of complications, comparable rates of patient satisfaction with IPP, and important tool for salvage protocols.




Conflicts of Interest: TC Hsieh is a consultant for Endo Pharmaceuticals. The other authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Statement: The authors are accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.


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doi: 10.21037/jovs.2019.11.07
Cite this article as: Greear GM, Ghali FM, Hsieh TC. Semirigid penile prosthesis: technique and review of literature. J Vis Surg 2020;6:17.