Learning About Penile Implants

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Inside view of inflatable penile implant, in both relaxed and erect positions, showing the penis, scrotum, reservoir, cylinders, and pump

What is a penile implant?

A penile implant is a device to treat erection problems. It makes the penis firm enough for sex. The implant replaces the spongy tissue in the penis that fills with blood during an erection. There are several types of implants.

Why is it done?

A penile implant is an option if you can't get or keep an erection that's firm enough for sex and other treatment options haven't worked.

Implants may be used when erection problems have a physical cause, such as:

  • Diabetes.
  • Pelvic surgery.
  • Blood vessel disease.
  • Injury to the pelvis, genitals, or spinal cord.
  • Peyronie's disease. This is a curve in the penis caused by scar tissue.

What kinds are there?

There are two types of penile implants.

Noninflatable (or malleable).

This implant is always firm. It can be bent into different positions.


There are two kinds of inflatable implants. Both have two cylinders in the shaft of the penis and a pump in the scrotum.

  • A three-piece implant has:
    • A reservoir in the belly that holds salt water (saline).
    • A pump in the scrotum that moves saline from the reservoir to the cylinders, creating an erection.
    • A release valve on the pump that moves the saline from the cylinders back to the reservoir.
  • A two-piece implant has:
    • Cylinders that store saline at the base of the cylinder.
    • A pump in the scrotum that moves saline towards the head of the penis, creating an erection.
    • A valve in the cylinder that releases the saline back to the base of the penis. (When the implant is bent, the valve opens.)

How do they work?

Noninflatable (or malleable).

You bend a noninflatable implant outward to have sex. You bend it back toward your body after sex.


You create an erection by pumping saline into the cylinders. After sex, the release valve on the pump drains the saline.

The three-piece implant usually works better than a two-piece implant. But placing it is a slightly more complicated surgery.

How well does it work?

Experts agree that penile implants are likely to help with erection problems. There are reports that most people are satisfied with the results.

An implant allows an erection that's firm enough for sex whenever and as often as you want. And the erection can last for as long as you want.

Implants don't affect ejaculation. Ejaculation and orgasm may or may not happen. Implants don't affect sexual desire.

Penile implants usually don't need to be replaced.

What are the risks?

The site of the implant may become infected. If the infection is severe, the implant must be removed.

Sometimes, the implant may have to be removed because of pain.

Other possible problems include:

  • The risk of the surgery itself.
  • Injury to tissue near the implant. This is called erosion.
  • A leak or break in the implant.

Penile implant surgery isn't reversible. This means that if the implant is removed, there aren't any other kinds of treatments for erection problems that will work. But the implant may be replaced.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.