Physiology of Penile Erection

The penis contains two chambers (the corpora cavernosa), which run the length of the organ, and are surrounded by a membrane (the tunica albuginea). Erection or flaccidity of the penis results from relaxation or contraction, respectively, of smooth muscle cells in the corpora cavernosa. Penile erection is a complex neurovascular process involving relaxation of the corpus cavernosal smooth muscles and vasodila-tion of blood vessels supplying the corpora cavernosa. This is due to both increased arterial inflow into and restricted venous outflow from the penis. Increased blood flow causes physical expansion of sinusoidal spaces, creating a pressure in the corpora cavernosa and making the penis enlarge [1, 2] . Compression of the dilated blood vessels against the semielastic tunica albuginea restricts venous outflow, producing penile rigidity and sustaining erection. Detumescence occurs as a consequence of increased cavernosal smooth muscle tone and contraction of the sinusoids, reducing arterial inflow [3].

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