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Erectile dysfunction health centre

Penile rods and tubes

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for men who have erection problems. It tells you about penile rods and tubes, a treatment used for erection problems. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

We don't know for sure. There hasn't been enough good-quality research about penile rods and tubes. But doctors agree that they are likely to help people who haven't been helped by other treatments.

What are they?

Some men who have erection problems have special bendable rods or inflatable tubes put into their penis. Doctors call these treatments penile prostheses.

You need to have an operation to have bendable rods or inflatable tubes put into your penis. After the operation, you may be able to go home the same day or the next day. It usually takes about five days to 10 days to recover. You'll need to wait a month before having sex. [105]

Bendable rods

These are stiff plastic rods that a surgeon puts into the columns of spongy tissue that lie along the main part of your penis. When these columns fill with blood, they get stiff and you get an erection. But if you have problems getting an erection, it's because these columns don't get firm.

Having bendable rods in your penis means your penis stays fairly firm all the time. When you're ready to have sex, you bend the rod up, which makes your penis go into a straight position. Afterwards, you bend the rod back down.

Inflatable tubes

These have three parts.

  • Plastic tubes: These go into the spongy parts of your penis.

  • Pouch of liquid: This goes inside your abdomen.

  • Small pump: This goes inside your scrotum (the bag below your penis that holds your testicles).

When you're ready to have sex, you squeeze the pump. This pushes the liquid from the pouch into the tubes. The tubes fill with liquid and become firm, giving you an erection. Afterwards, you use the pump to empty the tubes.

Men normally choose these treatments only if they have a severe physical cause for their erection problems. Most men try other treatments before they try rods and tubes.

How can they help?

If you can't get an erection with any other treatment, these devices might help you to get an erection firm enough to have sex. But we don't how well they work because there hasn't been any good research on them.

How do they work?

Bendable rods and inflatable tubes make your penis firm enough to have sex, even if you can't normally get an erection.

Can they be harmful?

If you want to have rods or tubes put in your penis, you need to have an operation. Your penis may hurt after the operation. And there's a small chance that you'll pick up an infection during the operation. In one study, this happened to 5 in 100 people. [106]

Inflatable tubes may stop working. The tubes may fill up by themselves or liquid could leak out of the tubes. If this happens, you may need to have another operation to have the tubes taken out.

How good is the research on penile rods and tubes?

We can't be certain that rods and tubes work, because there haven't been enough high-quality studies.

One study looked at some of the problems with rods and tubes. More than 300 men tried using inflatable tubes for about 10 years. About 1 in 20 men had an infection after the operation. [107]


For references related to Erection problems click here.
Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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