- A 43-year-old South Australian man had most of his penis surgically removed after a buildup of calcium in his blood vessels caused gangrene to spread, according to the medical journal BMJ.
- After the infected tissue was removed, he was left with nothing but a “penile stump,” as described by the medical report.
- The buildup of calcium — or calciphylaxis — was caused by his end-stage kidney failure, which he was receiving dialysis treatment for.
- Penile gangrene caused by the buildup of calcium in the blood vessels is rare, difficult to treat, and often lethal.
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A South Australian man was left with a “penile stump” after doctors removed tissue infected with gangrene from his penis, according to a December report published in the medical journal BMJ.
The 43-year-old was receiving a dialysis treatment for end-stage kidney failure when doctors discovered gangrene on the tip of his penis during an examination. His flesh had already started to show serious signs of the deep infection, turning black with white spots, according to BMJ.
Initially, only the tip of the man’s penis was removed but after further examination, doctors had to remove more tissue to ensure the gangrene wouldn’t spread further, saving only a small portion.
The gangrene was the result of penile calciphylaxis — or buildup of calcium in the bloodstream. Cases of penile calciphylaxus are extremely rare, according to the Daily Mail, with only 81 cases of it in English-language scientific reports since it was first discovered in 1997.
While the gangrene-infected skin was removed, the man underwent further surgery a year later due to calciphylaxis that developed in his lower intestine. He is still living and managing his condition as of the study’s publishing date.
Penile gangrene is often lethal
Cases of penile calciphylaxis are notoriously difficult to treat, resulting in a 64% mortality rate for those who contract it, according to the study.
The buildup of calcium in the bloodstream is the direct result of it not being able to be filtered out of the body correctly, which can be caused by conditions such as kidney failure and diabetes, according to BMJ. These buildups make it impossible for blood to get enough oxygen to certain parts of the body, killing off tissue and causing gangrene.
People without penises are not immune to developing gangrene as a result of calciphylaxis. The condition can manifest in other extremities, like fingers and toes, according to a study published in the U.S. National Study of Medicine.
One of the only effective ways to treat it is to cut away the infected flesh to prevent further spreading throughout the body, according to Hopkins Medicine.
But for many who contract penile gangrene through calciphylaxis, surgery is only a short-term solution. Study authors ultimately found that the mortality rate three months after management through surgery was 38% and the mortality rate with all types of management was 54%.
According to the study authors, it’s important for people with diabetes or kidney disease to get regularly checked by a doctor.