- "Penile fracture" refers to the rupture of a sponge-like tissue in the penis
- There are over 1,300 cases of penile fracture in medical literature
(CNN)What may be every man's worst medical nightmare happened to 32-year-old Ross Asdourian.
"I think that all men in the depths of their brain know that this is possible. And I will go a step further and say that most men have probably had scares where maybe it bent a little bit, myself included," Asdourian said.
About three years ago, Asdourian, a New York-based comedian and filmmaker, met up with an old friend at a bar. He took her back to his apartment in Manhattan's East Village.
"We were basically approaching the finish line ... and I came out, and when I went to go back in, she was pushing back, and basically it just popped," he said.
Asdourian suffered a severe case of penile fracture -- what in medical terms would be referred to as a "corpus cavernosa rupture," according to Dr. Jack Mydlo, professor and chair of urologic surgery at Temple University, who was not involved in Asdourian's case.
" 'Penile fracture' is a common term, but when people hear penile fracture, they think of a bone in the penis, and there's no bone in the penis, I can assure you. It's more of a rupture," Mydlo said.
The corpus cavernosa is a pair of sponge-like tissues that runs along the length of the penis. Along with the corpus spongiosum, which surrounds the urethra, the corpus cavernosa expand with blood when a man is aroused, according to Dr. Rajveer Purohit, director of reconstructive urology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and the primary surgeon in Asdourian's case.
"It's a unique tissue that's only present in the penis," Purohit said. "When you get an erection, blood flows into the corpus cavernosa, and it fills up like a sponge."
But when too much pressure is placed on the tissue, the external envelope surrounding the corpus cavernosa -- called the tunica albuginea -- can tear, causing a corporal rupture, according to Purohit.
"You can imagine a balloon that gets filled up with water, and then you have this tense sheath that's surrounding the balloon, and that's what gives you the stiffness with an erection. And the fracture is a rupture of the balloon and the sheath surrounding the balloon," Purohit said.
"The vast majority of cases are one-sided, or unilateral, corporal ruptures. But sometimes you do have someone who's had a bilateral, or two-sided, corporal fracture involving the urethra" as Asdourian did, Mydlo said. "But that's rare. You have to have major, major trauma for that to happen."
As soon as he heard the "pop," Asdourian says, he knew that one of his greatest fears had been confirmed.
"I knew right away that something was wrong, and I went straight into emergency protocol. I breathed in the pain for a couple of beats, rolled over, flipped on the lights and called 911," he said.
Penile fractures are relatively rare, but due to the sensitive nature of the condition, they are probably more common than many people realize, according to Mydlo.