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Priapism In Children


  • Priapism is a condition where your child's penis becomes, and remains, erect (rigid) for long periods of time. This happens when there is a problem with the flow of blood into and out of your child's penis. Arteries (blood vessels) bring blood with oxygen into the penis. Veins are blood vessels that return blood without oxygen to the heart. With priapism, there is too much blood in your child's penis. Having too much blood in the penis causes it to become engorged (very full) and rigid (firm). Engorgement lasting for a long time may put pressure on the tissue in your child's penis, causing pain and tissue damage.
  • There are different types of priapism called low-flow, high-flow, and stuttering priapism. Low-flow priapism is an emergency and must be treated quickly. Low-flow occurs when there is a blockage in the blood vessels and unoxygenated blood cannot leave the penis. High-flow occurs when too much blood is entering and collecting in the penis. Stuttering priapism is a repeating erection that occurs for no known reason and lasts from minutes up to three hours. Your child's risk for priapism increases if he has sickle cell disease, leukemia, or a spinal cord injury. Your child is also at risk if he has an injury to his penis and surrounding area.
  • Your child may need blood and urine tests and an ultrasound to learn the reason for his priapism. High-flow priapism may go away on its own without treatment. Treatments include medicines, aspiration, and surgery. Treatment may help decrease the amount of blood in your child's penis so it softens again. Treatment may help decrease your child's pain and prevent tissue damage. Receiving treatment quickly may decrease your child's risk for future problems, including erectile dysfunction (trouble having an erection).



  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.
  • Hormone therapy: Your child may be given hormones (body chemicals) to help resolve his priapism. Hormones are normally only given to teenagers after they have gone through puberty. Ask your child's caregiver for more information about hormone therapy.
  • Pain medicine: Your child may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. Know how often your child should get the medicine and how much. Watch for signs of pain in your child. Tell caregivers if his pain continues or gets worse. To prevent falls, stay with your child to help him get out of bed.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

Preventing priapism:

You can help your child decrease his risk for priapism by doing the following:

  • Make sure your child sees his caregiver for regular checkups. If your child has a medical condition, such as sickle cell disease, make sure he follows his caregiver's treatment advice.
  • Talk with your child about avoiding alcohol and illegal street drugs. Talk with your child's caregiver if your child drinks alcohol or takes drugs and needs help to stop.


  • Your child has an unwanted, painless erection for four or more hours.
  • Your child has sickle cell disease and symptoms of an infection, such as a fever (high body temperature).
  • Your child has an unwanted erection that comes and goes, lasting from minutes to hours.
  • You or your child has questions about his condition, medicine, or care.


  • Your child has an unwanted, painful erection for four or more hours.
  • Your child has penis pain and swelling that is not getting better after treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Priapism In Children (Discharge Care)

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