Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/08/2020
Many men wouldn’t pass up the gift of a larger penis, especially if that gift came with no strings. But in the real world, getting a larger penis can involve surgery, which comes with a long list of strings attached.
We as a society, and men specifically, put a lot of value on penis size. We make jokes about it, movies about it, and suggest men with bigger packages are, figuratively as well as literally, “bigger” men.
It may be because of this focus on penis size that many men question whether they’re normal or feel inadequate regardless of actual size. “Normal” penis size is hard to pin down, but one study that reviewed and averaged values from multiple different studies found the average erect penis length to be between 12.8 and 14.5 cm, and girth between 10 and 10.5 cm. Even men within these ranges can feel inadequate and seek out enlargement solutions.
Surgery is one option for men seeking penile enlargement. Here’s a discussion of the surgery types, evidence, and risks.
There are different approaches for penis lengthening and girth-increasing surgeries.
Some penis enhancement surgeries involve implants, though these are often used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction rather than size enhancement.
The risk of complications with all penis enlargement surgeries is relatively high.
All penis enlargement surgeries are considered experimental.
There are a few different types of penis enlargement surgeries.
Penis lengthening surgery generally involves severing a suspensory ligament that attaches the penis to the public bone. This allows the penis to hang lower. Skin from the abdomen is placed onto the shaft of the penis to make up for the new length.
After recovering from the surgical procedure, men are often required to suspend weights from their penis throughout the day. This prevents the body from “healing” the cut ligaments by reattaching them.
An even more extreme type of lengthening surgery involves “disassembling” the penis — removing the head from the shaft — and using rib cartilage to reconstruct a sort of extender which is placed between the head and the shaft, lengthening the penis.
Increasing the thickness or circumference of the penis can be done surgically by implanting fat or grafting tissue into the penis shaft. Generally, fat is injected at various points around the penis and then kneaded to create a uniform appearance. As with lengthening surgeries, men may have to use penile weights after recovery to prevent shrinkage. Using lab-grown “skin” tissue is a new and novel girth-increasing surgical option, but research on this approach is limited.
There is a limited number of implant devices available on the market.
One, known as Penuma, has a single piece of scientific literature analyzing its results. That study was performed by the device’s inventor and single surgeon, Dr. James Elist.
The Penuma is a silicone sleeve that is implanted into the shaft of the penis. Men can choose a large, extra-large, or extra-extra-large implant. It’s perhaps not surprising that none of the Penuma implants are classified as “small”.
Other penile implants — either semirigid or inflatable — are largely designed to help men who have erectile dysfunction, rather than increase the size of a fully-operational penis. They are saved for when all other ED treatments fail.
The short answer here is: it depends. Penis enlargement surgeries often result in a bigger penis. Just how much bigger? Hold on, we’ll tell you. But not before we warn you — penis enlargement surgeries come with major risks. So after you read this section on how “great” the results can be, make sure you read the next, which talks about the possible trade-offs.
The potential results from penile enlargement surgeries largely depend on the type of surgery you elect to have. A review of 12 surgery types found that among all penis enlargement surgeries, average length increases were from 1.7 cm to 3.5 cm — that’s 0.7 to 1.4 inches, for you non-metric types. And average girth increases were from 1.5 cm to 3.35 cm, or 0.6 to 1.3 inches.
The authors of the review do caution, though: “Treatment of small penis in normal men is supported by scant, low-quality evidence. Structured counseling should be always performed, with extenders eventually used by those still seeking enhancement. Injectables and surgery should remain a last option, considered unethical outside of clinical trials.”
Now, let’s talk trade-offs.
The risk of complications with penis enlargement and implant surgeries is quite high. It’s for this reason that the Sexual Medicine Society of North America has a position on the procedures — it’s worth reading in its entirety:
“The Society for the Study of Impotence has found no peer reviewed, objective or independently-monitored studies, or other data, which prove the safety or efficacy of penile lengthening and girth enhancement surgery.”
These surgeries are all regarded as experimental and the Society strongly cautions patients considering such operations. It’s because these procedures don’t have a wide breadth of data behind them and they aren’t widely accepted that there are no “standard” surgical techniques. The risks for each surgery type may be different, but they generally include:
Loss of injected fat: the fat is reabsorbed into the body
Irregular lumps and bumps
Follow-up surgeries to remove fat pockets
Complete reversal of the surgery
Loss of sensation or function
Reduced elasticity or stretch to the penis skin
Necrosis or death of penis tissue
Follow-up surgeries to correct complications
According to an analysis in Sexual Medicine Reviews that looked at both surgical and nonsurgical penis enhancement techniques, the discussion of risks and complications “make recommending surgery for men with normal penile dimensions unscientific at best and unethical at worst.”
Many men who seek penis enlargement solutions actually have quite normal penises. True penis abnormalities are quite rare, and a general consensus among researchers is that these risky surgeries should be saved as a last resort for men with true medical need.
In recognizing that the urge for a bigger package is often rooted in unrealistic expectations and a skewed body image, the Mayo Clinic suggests men considering surgery instead talk with their partner about their concerns, lose body fat that may contribute to a smaller-appearing penis, talk with their doctor about their perception of their penis, and talk with a counselor.