How is priapism treated?

The goal of all treatment is to make the erection go away and preserve the ability to have erections in the future. If a person receives treatment within four to six hours, the erection can almost always be reduced with medication. If the erection has lasted less than four hours, decongestant medications, which may decrease blood flow to the penis, may be very helpful. Other treatment options include:

  • Ice packs: Ice applied to the penis and perineum may reduce swelling.
  • Surgical ligation: Used in some cases where an artery has been ruptured, the doctor will ligate (tie off) the artery that is causing the priapism in order to restore normal blood flow.
  • Intracavernous injection: This treatment is used for low-flow priapism. Drugs known as alpha-agonists are injected into the penis. They cause the arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow to the penis and causing the swelling to decrease.
  • Surgical shunt: Also used for low-flow priapism, a shunt is a passageway that is surgically inserted into the penis to divert the blood flow and allow circulation to return to normal.
  • Aspiration: After numbing the penis, doctors will insert a needle and drain blood from the penis to reduce pressure and swelling.

If you think that you are experiencing priapism, you should not attempt to treat it yourself. Instead, get emergency help as soon as possible.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/14/2019.

References

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