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Lifestyle changes

Inflatable implants

Inflatable implants can be pumped with fluid to give an erection as required. The penis remains in a normal, flaccid (soft) state at all other times. There are two main types of inflatable implant: a 3-piece implant and a 2-piece implant (which is currently not often used).

The advantages of inflatable implants are that they have a low rate of mechanical failure, can be inflated discreetly and are easy to conceal.

3-piece implant
A 3-piece implant consists of:

  1. A fluid reservoir
  2. A pump
  3. Two inflatable cylinders

During surgery, a fluid reservoir containing saline (a safe, salt-water solution) is placed under the abdominal wall and a pump is implanted in the scrotum. Two inflatable cylinders are placed inside the penis. ck. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

The implant is inflated by squeezing the pump several times. This action moves the saline fluid from the reservoir to the cylinders and causes the penis to become erect. The penis remains erect until the pump is used again to deflate the cylinders and move the fluid back to the reservoir. Once the fluid is back in the reservoir, the penis returns to a flaccid (soft) state.

A 3-piece implant gives the most natural and rigid erection compared with a 2-piece implant or non-inflatable implant, but it has more parts than any other implant so there’s a greater risk of malfunction.

Fig. 1: A common type of inflatable penile implant.
Diagram of a 3-piece implant

Your doctor will be able to advise you if you have any problems with your implant. Sometimes a tiny air lock can become trapped in the 3-piece device, which can be passed through the implant by cycling (inflating/deflating) the implant and repeating this process until the air lock has passed through and has resolved.
Over time, when the system does not work properly any longer, it is important to talk to your specialist so they can assess whether a mechanical part might be substituted or whether the implant might require replacing.

2-piece implant
2-piece implants are not currently used very often. However, a 2-piece implant consists of:

  1. A combined fluid reservoir and pump
  2. Two inflatable cylinders

During surgery, the combined fluid reservoir and pump is implanted in the scrotum and two inflatable cylinders are placed inside the penis.

The implant is inflated by squeezing the pump several times and works in the same way as a 3-piece implant, moving saline fluid from the reservoir to the cylinders, causing the penis to become erect.

Diagram of a 2-piece implant

Non-inflatable implants

Non-inflatable implants, also called flexible implants, involve having bendable rods inserted into either side of your penis. The implants can be bent into position during sexual activity, meaning you can create an erection when you need it. With this type of implant, your penis will always be semi-rigid, which may be difficult to conceal.

Frequently asked questions about penile implants

What will sex be like for me after having an implant?
Penile implants replace the function of the erection muscles without affecting anything else. So, while you may find you need to adjust to the “new normal” way of having sex, your implant will not affect your sensitivity or your ability to orgasm and ejaculate. You will always be in control of your erection, whether you have an inflatable or non-inflatable implant.

A recent study suggests that around 75% of men who have penile implants experience an increase in either length or girth of their penis after implantation.

Will my partner know I’ve got an implant?
If you’re in a new relationship, you may feel embarrassed or concerned about telling your partner you have a penile implant. Don’t be. Advances in technology mean penile implants are discreet, so it’s unlikely your partner will be able to tell that you have one by looking at your penis, or during sex.

Can I still exercise or go to the gym after having a penile implant?
You will be advised to avoid heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, swimming, or a soak in a bath or hot tub for up to 4 weeks following your surgery. You will, however, be encouraged to do gentle walking to aid your recovery. Once you’ve fully healed, you can return to your usual exercise routine.

Will I need to take any time off work?
Most men take between 3 and 5 days off work to give them chance to recover fully from the surgery.

You must not engage in sexual activity (including masturbation) for 6 weeks after having your surgery.