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Editorial: When normal is not enough

This is a useful reference on penile size, flaccid, stretched and erect [1]. It is interesting to note that the stretch length is quite a useful surrogate for erect length. Measuring stretch lengths obviously has inter-observer bias. This paper describes the standard technique for measuring from the pubic bone along the dorsum of the phallus to the tip, which is usually the external urinary meatus. Some men could well take solace in knowing that their penile length is within the normal range; however, men who complain of having a short penis are usually more complex. In our assessment, it can be useful to measure flaccid stretch length and explain to the patient that his length is within range for his population, but being told ‘you are normal’ might not be enough. The feeling of inadequate length usually has emotional connotations that may not respond to reassurance. In my experience, these men have been told that they have a small penis in late childhood/early puberty, or else have witnessed an adult penis before their own growth. This misconception then goes uncorrected for several years until they finally present. Locker room comparison does not help, as there is a parallax error in viewing one’s own penis from above as compared with the full frontal view of one’s peers.

At the stage of presentation, a simple reassurance is unlikely to reverse years of conditioning. The patient could experience a dangerous sense of frustration should he feel dismissed as normal. So-called ‘penile lengthening’ by partial division of the suspensory ligaments only has a 27% satisfaction rate among patients with penile dysmorphobic disorder [2]. Provided a medical/anatomical cause is not to be treated, I recommend psychosexual assessment and counselling.

Paul K. Hegarty
Mater Misericordiae Univers ity Hospital & Mater Private, Cork & Dublin, Ireland

 

References

 

2. LiCY, Kayes O, Kell PD, Christopher N, Minhas S, Ralph DJ. Penile suspensory ligament division for penile augmentation: indications and results. Eur Urol 2006; 49: 72933

 

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