Also known as penile duplication, diphallia is an abnormality where a person is born with two penises. It’s a rare condition with around 100 confirmed cases since Johannes Jacob Wecker discovered the first case in 1609. According to a study, the condition only affects one out of 5.5 million boys.
Diphallia is usually accompanied by other serious medical conditions such as renal, vertebral, hindgut, anorectal and other congenital anomalies. According to experts, men with this condition are usually sterile.
Just like many other congenital abnormalities, experts are yet to find out the cause of the condition but it’s believed the anomalies occur 23 days after gestation following an injury, chemical stress, or gene malfunction. The condition isn’t genetic or inherited.
The following are some likely causes of such anomaly;
- Radiation exposure to the embryo during mesodermal fusion process
- Malformations of the foetus in utero
- Smoking or alcohol abuse by the expectant mother
- Exposure to heavy chemicals
- Too much stress
Types of diphallia
According to experts, the degree of the penises’ functionality is entirely dependent on the individual. Some have two penises that are of normal shape, size, and function, while others can have a genitalia that is small, malformed, and unable to urinate or ejaculate. Here are three forms of the condition:
Bifid penis: This kind of diphallia is associated with abnormality present at birth where the bladder and associated structures are improperly formed.
True diphallus: It’s a condition where a patient has two independent penises. The additional organ has the whole exact copy of the penis, urethra, scrotum and bladder. The urethral opening can be either in normal posture where it opens on the underside of the penis or it opens on the upper surface of the penis.
Complete pseudodiphallus: It happens when the patient develops another penis in addition to the normal penis. Both organs are functional and can release urine at the same time or sometimes pass only one through some aperture perineum. Furthermore, in terms of its erectile functionality one or both penises are capable of erection, but in some cases the patient is sterile due to congenital defects.
Treating the condition
Just like the way the causes of diphallia vary from one type to another, so is the treatment. Diphallia treatment should be tailored according to the cause of the condition.
The usual procedure is surgical removal, whereby the supernumerary penis is removed or the extra penis has to be surgically detached and retaining one functional penis. The sooner the elimination of the extra penis, the better. Thus early treatment on this kind of anomalies will prevent some possible problems in terms of sexual behaviour in future.
Doctors advise all patients with the condition to be evaluated carefully because of high incidence of other systematic anomalies and all can be repaired surgically.
Health experts say that infants born with diphallia and some of its related conditions have higher death rate from various infections that is associated with their renal or colorectal systems.
If you suspect your child has the condition, scientists advise parents to visit a health expert for a test. Most of the times the doctor will usually do magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. MRI is said to be a valuable method for achieving the accurate diagnosis of these anomalies and associated malformations.
The test also provides the appropriate knowledge regarding anatomical detail and assists the surgeon in decision-making and preoperative planning for optimal surgical approach.