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West J Emerg Med. 2010 February; 11(1): 93.
PMCID: PMC2850866

A Sudden Snapping Sound

A 33-year-old male presented to the Emergency Department (ED) with a chief complaint of a painful penis. The patient had been having intercourse with his wife approximately six hours earlier when he felt a bending of his penis, heard an audible “snap,” followed by abrupt pain. The patient was in moderate pain in the ED and was treated with parenteral analgesia. Physical findings were notable for a diffusely tender and ecchymotic penile shaft with deformity (Figures 1). There was no blood at the urethral meatus, and testicular and abdominal examinations were benign.

Diffusely tender and ecchymotic penile shaft with deformity

Penile fracture, or rupture of the tunica albuginea, is caused by trauma to the erect penis most frequently during masturbation (60%) or sexual intercourse (19%).1 It is a relatively uncommon presentation to the ED; almost invariably it presents with the classic history of trauma to the penis, a “snap” and rapid swelling of the penis with erectile detumescence. The diagnosis is generally easy to make with certainty, although thrombosis or rupture of the superficial dorsal vein of the penis can be confused with penile fracture.2 While urethral injury is uncommonly associated with these fractures, it can occur. Treatment is generally surgical although conservative, non-surgical management sometimes is done. Complications include subsequent erectile dysfunction in up to 27% of patients, infection, strictures and deformity.3


Supervising Section Editor: Sean Henderson, MD

Reprints available through open access at


1. El Atat R, Sfaxi M, Benslama MR, et al. Fracture of the penis: management and long-term results of surgical treatment. Experience in 300 cases. J Trauma. 2008;64(1):121–5. [PubMed]
2. Hanson GR, Thrasher JB. Ruptured superficial dorsal vein of the penis masquerading as a penile fracture: case report. Can J Urol. 2007;14(4):3651–2. [PubMed]
3. Chung CH, Szeto YK, Lai KK. ‚Fracture‘ of the penis: a case series. Hong Kong Med J. 2006;12(3):197–200. [PubMed]

Articles from Western Journal of Emergency Medicine are provided here courtesy of The University of California, Irvine