How Botched Penis Enlargement Surgery Led to a Young Man's Death

The procedure is common, but the complication is rare.

Flickr/ proxyindian

In what doctors are calling the first instance of death due to routine penis enlargement, a 30-year-old Swedish man died while undergoing the surgery, the Journal of Forensic Sciences reported in late July. The young man, whose doctors said had no medical history indicating the surgery would be risky, died of a pulmonary embolism. In short, stray fat particles made their way into his blood stream and blocked arterial branches in his lungs.

You may be wondering: How could a penis enlargement procedure result in a pulmonary embolism? It actually happened as an unfortunate complication resulting from a very common plastic surgery method called autologous fat transfer. It’s a procedure in which fat is removed from one part of the body — usually from the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks — and injected into another part of the body such as the patient’s breasts, face, buttocks, or, in this young man’s case, the penis.

In this case, the patient underwent two procedures at once: injecting fat to increase girth and loosening a penile ligament to increase length. The report’s authors suspect that the combined procedures increased the likelihood of an embolism because penile vein punctures created during the elongation — performed first — exposed his bloodstream to the injected fat during the girth-enhancing procedure.

Microscopic examination revealed multiple fat cells clogging arterial branches in the young Swedish man's lungs.

Zilg et al

There have been other cases of fat embolisms following autologous fat transfers, report the authors, though they are few and far between.

Relative risk aside, though, the medical establishment seems to agree that penis enlargement surgery is not a good idea. The American Urological Association’s official stance is that neither fat injection nor ligament loosening is “safe or efficacious.”

As Inverse previously reported, augmentations of this type can be fueled by perceived societal norms to adhere to a certain type of body shape, one that may not even be as desired as you think.

“It’s a completely useless procedure that never works and disfigures men, and could kill you,” urologist Tobias Kohler of the Mayo Clinic told BuzzFeed News. “This is the worst case, but there are lots of other horrible consequences, from disfigurement to permanent erectile disfunction to even worse.”

This young man’s untimely demise is just the latest example of social pressure resulting in an early and avoidable death.

Abstract: Fat embolism is an incidental finding in cases of long bone fractures or other trauma, but it is also associated with liposuction and autologous fat transfer, a procedure where fat from liposuction is injected back into the same patient’s face, breast, buttocks or penis. We here present a case of sudden death by fat embolism in a healthy young male, caused by a simple penis enlargement procedure, in which fat was injected into the penis shaft. We suggest that the risk of fat embolization might be higher when pretraumatized tissue is subjected to fat injection, like in this case, where a penis elongation was performed before the fat injection.
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