AUG 03, 2017 5:28 AM PDT

Diagnosed: Man Dies When Fat Injected into His Penis Traveled to His Lungs


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A man hoping surgery would leave him better endowed than before tragically died from complications related to the procedure. The cause of death was fat blockages in his lungs, according to pathologists. The case highlights the dangers hidden in these types of elective surgeries, and reminds us to ask the most salient question of all: Are the rewards worth the deadly risks?

The patient was a healthy 30-year-old man who elected to have a penis enlargement surgery in Sweden. The procedure comprised of two parts. First, to make the penis appear longer when flaccid, surgeons snipped the suspensory ligament of the penis. Because this ligament holds the penis close to the pubic bone, cutting it would give the illusion of a lengthened male genitalia. Second, to increase the appearance of girth, surgeons injected fat into the penis. This second step is where things took a deadly turn.

It’s believed that some of the injected fat seeped into his bloodstream and entered his lungs. There, the fat droplets clogged the lung vessels and interfered with oxygen exchange. Unfortunately for the patient, the pulmonary fat embolism was fatal.

Dr. Lee Zhao, a urologist at the NYU Langone Health in New York City, who was not involved with the the case, questions precisely where the fat was injected in the man’s penis, as this could have made a difference.

"The penis works by filling erectile tissue with blood," Dr. Zhao said. "If the fat was injected into the erectile tissue, then the risk of fat embolism would be much higher." However, if the fat was injected just under the penis skin, the risks of the fat traveling to the venous system would be lower. It’s also possible that some fat unintentionally got into the erectile tissue even though it was meant for under the skin. Based on the case report, Dr. Zhao isn’t sure what happened.

Although Dr. Zhao notes that fatal cases such as these are “extremely rare,” he does make strong cautions against the procedure’s perceived benefits. Both steps of the penis enlargement procedure alter the organ’s appearance in its flaccid state. The procedures do not treat (nor do they claim to) any underlying conditions related to erectile or sexual dysfunction.

On the contrary, any improvements in the appearance of penis length and girth may come at the cost of sexual performance. There are consequences associated with snipping the suspensory ligament. As Dr. Zhao explains, “The ligament acts to allow the penis to aim forward, and cutting [it] can cause the penis [to] hang downwards.”

It’s also worth noting that penis enlargement isn’t the only type of procedure that can lead to pulmonary fat embolism. Using a person’s own fat to enhance or otherwise alter the appearance of another body part - known as autologous fat transfer - is quite popular in recent times. This type of augmentation procedure is also used to also enhance the appearance of the lips, face, breast, and buttocks.

Additional source: Live Science

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
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