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Some Contend That the Risks From the Two Procedures Are Minimal

March 30, 1994|LESLIE KNOWLTON

As a cosmetic surgery package, the phenomenon of combined penis operations for length and width have been popular for only about three years.

Industry watcher Gary Griffin, Palm Springs author of a self-published book called "Straight Talk About Surgical Penis Enlargement," says that nationally, there are more than two dozen doctors performing the surgeries as significant parts of their practices. Most are urologists and plastic surgeons; not all are board certified.

"There are more doctors jumping on board every month," says Griffin, who also publishes a newsletter on the subject. "The procedure is gaining more credibility, but it's not the panacea patients imagine and not all doctors have skills necessary to provide optimal results. I've even heard that a dermatologist tried getting in on the act."

Griffin estimates that 3,000 men have undergone enlargements, most gaining less than one inch in exposed length and about an inch in girth. Griffin predicts that an additional 5,000 men will have the procedures done this year.

While techniques differ, the lengthening surgery today is usually some variation of the following:

An incision is made in the pubic region, allowing access to the hidden part of the penis's root in the pelvis. (About a third of the penis is inside the body.) A portion of the suspensory ligaments that hold the penis at an upright angle during erection is snipped; the penis is then pushed out from inside the pelvis and re-established via stitching that prevents retraction.

Some doctors close the wound by shifting a flap of the pubic area's skin over the penis, accommodating it to its new exposed size. Some later hang weights on the penis to help maximize results.

Although most doctors claim that no one has been seriously damaged by the lengthening surgery, they agree that effects have included a 30-degree or more drop in the angle of erection, a penis that "pivots" at the base, pubic hair growing on the newly exposed front part of the penis and development of scar tissue at the suture line.

And one Miami urologist, Harold M. Reed, says one of his 500 patients suffered a serious nerve injury and two others reported inhibited erections three and six months following surgery.

Says Reed: "While generally of low risk, the potential for serious complications should deter . . . one who is not well versed in urological anatomy."

The penile-thickening procedure involves suctioning a small amount of fat from areas such as the abdomen and injecting it into the penis shaft. (The head, or glans, cannot be enlarged.) Uneven absorption of new fat cells can cause indentations and lumps--"refills" may be needed.

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