Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

Phantom Penis

A recent blog entry directed me to this paper by Namba et al. titled Phantom erectile penis after sex reassignment surgery. The paper describes a variation of the phantom limb phenomenon, in where several of their patients experienced an erect  phantom penis after their male-to-female vaginoplasty. Most of them lost this sensation after a few weeks, but for one patient the condition persisted for 6 months (and the phantom penis was constantly erect for the whole period). The surgeons were using a new variant of the standard vaginoplasty, in where they use skin from the scrotal sac to make the interior walls of the vagina, instead of skin from the penis. This meant that both the bulbospongiosus muscle and the corpus cavernosum were left in place, and the surgeons theorized that these elements might be the cause of the patients sensation. So, they did another operation where they removed both of these structures, and this did indeed cause the patients phantom penis to disappear. According to neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran, the persistence of a phantom penis in male-to-female transsexuals is a very rare occurrence, because their brains are most likely hard wired for female genitalia.


October 14, 2008 - Posted by | Medicine | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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