Report: Determination of Human Penile Electrical Resistance and Implication on Safety for Electrosurgery of Penis

A recent report from Taiwan would send shivers down the spine of the average bloke, at the very least, causing him to involuntarily keep his knees together.

A group of crazy brave surgeons in Taiwan has been exploring the effects of electricity on male genitalia.

Concerned that blokes worldwide were risking toasted todgers – and obviously not overburdened with stupid willing subjects – the desperate dedicated researchers conducted the experiments on themselves.

Their report titled “Determination of Human Penile Electrical Resistance and Implication on Safety for Electrosurgery of Penis” is a slightly alarming insight into a field of surgery that at first begs the question: “What’s wrong with using a scalpel?”

Surprisingly, electrosurgery is not as shocking as it sounds.

Pioneered by Dr William T Bovie in 1914, it’s a relatively safe and hygienic method of cutting tissue using highly concentrated electrical current.

The current passes through a loop of fine wire, which can be used to lop off warts and moles and such, or through a fine needle in order to make incisions.

The current is concentrated around the needle tip and dispersed through the body into a large, metalized plate stuck on the patients back with gel.

To cut deeper, the surgeon powers up the needle with a foot pedal or a switch on the tool. The heat generated by the current simply causes water in the tissue to boil and part, resulting in a “steam envelope” which cuts cleanly and with barely any sense of pressure.

A different current can be used to coagulate the blood in small vessels, making for nearly bloodless surgery. And when it comes to waving cutting instruments anywhere near a patient’s penis, the less blood (and burns) the better.

Which is where the mad intrepid men from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering in Taiwan come into play.

Dr Vincent Tsai told that it’s not uncommon for patients to choose electrosurgery for penis operations such as circumcisions and the removal of hypospadias. (Wikipedia describes Hypospadias as a birth defect of the urethra in the male that involves an abnormally placed urinary meatus). But to his knowledge, little research had been done into what extent it should be used on penises and just how much electricity a penis could take.

The only way to find out was to attach surface electrodes the two ends of penis he said. Taking into account that not all penises were created equally, the team also noted that the “impedance of the shaft” can be depicted by “some measurement and calculation”. Voltage was applied. Anesthetic was not.

Dr Tsai said the main concerns with penile electrosurgery was the potential to injure nerve and vessel tissue required for erectile function. Field cases have found injuries can range from thrombosis to six days of paralysis to three weeks of disability and something called “nerve longitudinal split of axis cylinder”. Dr Tsai’s research confirmed all of these and more.

His verdict?

We would like to remind our colleagues that we should be careful when doing ES on patients’ penis, potential and sub-clinical injury to erectile tissue caused by electrosurgery on the penis cannot be underestimated.

He suggested surgeons consider using less power and for shorter lengths of time. Or just switching to modern laser therapy. And despite the alarming potential, Dr Tsai said no penises were harmed during the course of the experiment -at least not permanently anyway.


Science and Tech
2 Comments on this post.
  • Blind Freddy
    30 July 2010 at 11:50 pm
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  • Blind Freddy
    30 July 2010 at 6:50 pm
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