Priapism: Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, and Management


Gregory A. Broderick, MD, Mayo Clinic, 4500 San Pablo Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32224, USA. Tel: (904) 953-7330; Fax: (904) 953-2218;


Introduction.  Priapism describes a persistent erection arising from dysfunction of mechanisms regulating penile tumescence, rigidity, and flaccidity. A correct diagnosis of priapism is a matter of urgency requiring identification of underlying hemodynamics.

Aims.  To define the types of priapism, address its pathogenesis and epidemiology, and develop an evidence-based guideline for effective management.

Methods.  Six experts from four countries developed a consensus document on priapism; this document was presented for peer review and debate in a public forum and revisions were made based on recommendations of chairpersons to the International Consultation on Sexual Medicine. This report focuses on guidelines written over the past decade and reviews the priapism literature from 2003 to 2009. Although the literature is predominantly case series, recent reports have more detailed methodology including duration of priapism, etiology of priapism, and erectile function outcomes.

Main Outcome Measures.  Consensus recommendations were based on evidence-based literature, best medical practices, and bench research.

Results.  Basic science supporting current concepts in the pathophysiology of priapism, and clinical research supporting the most effective treatment strategies are summarized in this review.

Conclusions.  Prompt diagnosis and appropriate management of priapism are necessary to spare patients ineffective interventions and maximize erectile function outcomes. Future research is needed to understand corporal smooth muscle pathology associated with genetic and acquired conditions resulting in ischemic priapism. Better understanding of molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of stuttering ischemic priapism will offer new avenues for medical intervention. Documenting erectile function outcomes based on duration of ischemic priapism, time to interventions, and types of interventions is needed to establish evidence-based guidance. In contrast, pathogenesis of nonischemic priapism is understood, and largely attributable to trauma. Better documentation of onset of high-flow priapism in relation to time of injury, and response to conservative management vs. angiogroaphic or surgical interventions is needed to establish evidence-based guidance. Broderick GA, Kadioglu A, Bivalacqua TJ, Ghanem H, Nehra A, and Shamloul R. Priapism: Pathogenesis, epidemiology and management. J Sex Med 2010;7:476–500.