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Treatment Urology


Treatment for all forms of priapism aims to eliminate the erection and pain and preserve normal erectile function. Doctors recommend that anyone experiencing an erection lasting four hours should seek medical evaluation and treatment.

Treatment of Ischemic Priapism

Ischemic priapism is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. If left untreated, the condition can significantly damage erectile function.

In the early stages of ischemic priapism, a cold shower or ice pack may relieve symptoms. Exercise in the form of climbing stairs also may help. Medications, such as analgesics and opiates to control pain, may be recommended as well.

Other treatments for the condition include:

  • Intracavernous Drug Therapy This treatment is often very effective in treating low-flow priapism. It involves injecting drugs known as alpha-agonists, such as diluted neosynephrine, into the penis, which causes the veins to open. As a result, the blood circulation to the penis is re-established.
  • Shunt Surgery During this procedure, a surgical shunt is created to restore normal blood circulation. A surgical shunt creates a new route for the trapped blood to return to the body.

Treatment of Non-ischemic Priapism

This condition does not require urgent treatment and in some cases, the condition may resolve itself spontaneously after days or months, at which point erectile capacity returns to normal. In some instances where treatment is necessary, the following procedures may be recommended:

  • Embolization This technique reduces blood flow in the penis by obstructing the ruptured artery. This may be achieved by having a radiologist insert specially designed coils, glues or spheres into the penis.
  • Surgical Ligation The condition can also be treated by tying off the ruptured artery, which helps to restore normal blood flow in the penis.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Recommended reading

Drugs Reported to Cause Priapism

In one-third of the cases, the cause of priapism is unknown. A variety of medications or recreational drugs also can lead to priapism. Find a list here.

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