A MAN needed to have the end of his penis amputated after doctors spotted that it was rotting away during a routine check-up.
The 43-year-old patient, who hasn’t been named, was having dialysis treatment for kidney failure at a hospital near Adelaide, South Australia.
But during his examination, medics noticed that the end of his penis had turned white with black spots.
Surgeons quickly realised that it was gangrenous and the dead flesh needed to be sliced off urgently to prevent it from spreading.
Writing in an article, published in BMJ Case Reports, medics explained that the man had developed a rare disease called penile calciphylaxis.
It’s a build up of calcium deposits in the small blood vessels, causing them to narrow and cut off circulation.
This can lead to the tissue dying and if it’s not caught quickly, it can cause gangrene which can spread quickly and is incurable.
Calciphylaxis can be caused by chronic kidney disease because the organs stop filtering the calcium out of the blood.
Lucky to be alive
In this case, the medics, led by Dr Rowan David, said that the man was lucky to have survived the condition, which kills around six in 10 patients.
He wrote: “The majority of patients who develop penile calciphylaxis progress to gangrene and sepsis”.
The patient was taken for an emergency operation to remove the rotting flesh but his wound got worse and he needed further surgery to remove the entire tip.
They managed to reconstruct it with a skin graft four days later but he was left with what they described as a “penile stump”.
Despite his ordeal, the man appeared to be doing well when he returned for his two-month check-up.
What is calciphylaxis?
Calciphylaxis is a rare, but serious, kidney complication.
The condition causes calcium to build up inside the blood vessels of the fat and skin.
Calciphylaxis is also called calcific uremic arteriolopathy.
It’s most often seen in people with advanced chronic kidney disease, or people with kidney failure who are on dialysis or have had a kidney transplant.
In dialysis, a machine filters and purifies the blood because the kidneys are unable to do so on their own.
Calciphylaxis results in the formation of very painful skin lesions. It often causes serious infections that can be fatal.
Symptoms of calciphylaxis include:
- body aches
- However a year after the operation he was back for more emergency surgery – this time for a perforated bowel.
Medics said this was as a result of calciphylaxis developing in other parts of his body, including his large intestine.
They wrote: “The patient remains alive at his last follow-up over a year following his initial diagnosis of penile calciphylaxis.”