Paraphimosis Treatment & Management

Updated: Mar 15, 2021
  • Author: Nathan A Brooks, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Approach Considerations

When diagnosed early, paraphimosis can be remedied easily with simple manual reduction in combination with other conservative measures. Patients with severe paraphimosis that proves refractory to conservative therapy will require a bedside emergency dorsal slit procedure to save the penis. Formal circumcision can be performed in the operating room at a later date.

Pain control

Paraphimosis is a a painful condition and care should be taken to ensure patient comfort by providing adequate analgesia and local anesthesia using a dorsal penile nerve block and circumferential penile ring block with lidocaine, bupivicaine, or a combination of the two. Epinephrine should never be injected. In additional, topical application of lidocaine or prilocaine creams and direct injection of anesthetic into the foreskin can be used.


Once pain control is adequate, manual reduction by attempting to circumferentially compress the foreskin and holding for 2-10 minutes to “squeeze” the edematous fluid along the penile shaft may be attempted. After this fluid has passed proximally, the foreskin is reduced by placing both thumbs on the glans and using the remaining fingers to pull the foreskin back over the glans into the anatomic location. There are many variations of this technique, all using the same principle of traction on the foreskin and countertraction on the glans.

In addition, reduction can include the use of forceps and clamps to pull the foreskin. Those instruments must be used cautiously, however, as they can crush the skin and cause necrosis of this tissue due to devascularization. The use of a 25-gauge needle to make several small stab incisions as an outlet for edema fluid has also been described [17] .

Adjuncts to reduction

Ice, osmotic agents such as sugar, and compression wrapping with Coban® have been used as adjuncts to manual reduction and can be considered. Ice and osmotic agents may require 1-2 hours to take effect, however, so they should not be used when arterial compromise is suspected.


Medical Therapy

Medical therapy for paraphimosis involves reassuring the patient, reducing the preputial edema, and restoring the prepuce to its original position and condition. Several methods of reducing the penile swelling have been described. Ice packs, penile wraps, and manual compression mechanically disperse the penile and preputial edema, while osmotic agents, such as granulated sugar or mannitol [18] have been reported as effective agents to reduce swelling. Hyaluronidase has been effectively used in the pediatric population as a method of increasing fluid diffusion, thus decreasing local edema. [19] If a Foley catheter is present, remove it temporarily until the paraphimosis has resolved.


Prior to reduction, consider the use of local anesthesia

  • Dorsal penile block: Insert a short 25-gauge needle anterior to the pubic arch at the 10-o'clock position until the Buck fascia is encountered. Insert the needle through the Buck fascia, but remain outside of the corporal bodies. Aspirate to make sure the needle is not in a corporal body. Inject 10 mL of 1% lidocaine solution. Repeat the process at the 2-o'clock position.
  • Ring block: Insert a short 25-gauge needle at the base of the penis until the Buck fascia is encountered. Remain outside of the corporal bodies. Inject the anesthetic into the Buck fascia circumferentially around the base of the penis.

  • A combination of dorsal penile and ring blocks should provide adequate local anesthesia. If not, inject additional anesthetic directly into the incision line.

Once pain control is adequate, manual reduction by attempting to circumferentially compress the foreskin and holding for 2-10 minutes to “squeeze” the edematous fluid along the penile shaft should be attempted. After this fluid has passed proximally, the foreskin is reduced by placing both thumbs on the glans and using the remaining fingers to pull the foreskin back over the glans into the anatomic location.  There are many variations of this technique with the same principal of traction on the foreskin and counter traction on the glans. In addition, reduction can include the use of the forceps and clamps to pull the foreskin. Caution should be used as the use of an instrument which crushes the skin will result in necrosis of this tissue due to revascularization. The use of a 25 gauge needle to make several small stab incisions as an outlet for edema has also been described After two or three solid attempts, the authors resort to a dorsal slit procedure as described in Surgical therapy.

Several other methods to effectively reduce the glanular and prepucial edema prior to reduction of the foreskin have been described in the literature. Some of these methods are described are as follows:

  • Wrap the penis in plastic and apply ice packs.

  • Use compressive elastic dressings.

  • Apply direct circumferential manual compression. (Application of a topical anesthetic such as 2% lidocaine gel or eutectic mixture of local anesthetics cream [2.5% prilocaine, 2.5% lidocaine; see lidocaine/prilocaine] to the penile skin a few minutes to an hour before penile manipulation reduces pain and helps patients, particularly children, tolerate the procedure. [20] )

  • Apply granulated sugar or mannitol-soaked gauze to the surface of the edematous prepuce and cover it with a condom or a finger of a rubber glove. The hypotonic fluid from the swollen foreskin moves down the osmotic gradient into the hypertonic agent, which results in a reduction of the preputial edema. This treatment is based on the principle that fluid transfer occurs via an osmotic gradient.

  • Using a tuberculin syringe, inject 1 mL of hyaluronidase (150 U/mL Wydase) directly into several sites of the edematous prepuce. Hyaluronidase breaks down hyaluronic acid in connective tissue and enhances fluid diffusion between tissue planes, decreasing preputial swelling and resulting in almost immediate resolution of the edema. (The use of hyaluronidase in the pediatric population has been well documented.)

Using ice and osmotic agents might take 1-2 hours to have an effect and should not be used when arterial compromise is suspected.

Regardless of the method chosen, when the preputial swelling and edema have subsided, correct the paraphimosis by gentle manual reduction (see image below).

This demonstrates the technique of manually reduci This demonstrates the technique of manually reducing the paraphimotic foreskin.

To reposition the prepuce, place both thumbs on the glans penis and wrap the fingers behind the prepuce. Apply gentle steady pressure to the prepuce with counterpressure to the glans penis as the prepuce is pulled down.

When performed properly, the constricting band of tissue should come down to completely cover the glans with the prepuce. If the prepuce comes down but the constricting band remains behind, the paraphimosis has not been reduced properly or sufficiently.

For more information, see Paraphimosis Reduction Procedures.

In patients who are determined to retain the appearance of an uncircumcised phallus, the authors have the patient apply triamcinolone cream 0.1% to the affected area to possibly reduce the fibrosis of the ring. This has been described in the treatment of phimosis and has proven efficacious in temporarily preventing recurrent phimosis, decreasing the need for circumcision. After 6 weeks of triamcinolone application, if the prepuce can easily be retracted and reduced, the patient may proceed as such, but the risk for recurrent phimosis and paraphimosis remains. More often than not, the authors ultimately perform circumcision.


Preoperative Details

Obtaining properly informed consent before performing circumcision is critical. Inform patients, parents, and/or caregivers of the potential risks of bleeding, infection, suture disruption, urethral injury, and too much or too little skin being removed. Also inform patients that circumcision does not affect the length or girth of the penis.

Instruct patients to abstain from genital stimulation for up to 6 weeks after surgery. Inadvertent erections can strain suture lines and cause incisions to break down.

Patients undergoing circumcision for recurrent balanitis should be free of infection before the procedure.


Adequate anesthesia for emergency department management of paraphimosis is technically challenging using a landmark-based technique of a dorsal penile block (DPB). The landmark-based DPB is not standardized and options include “10 o'clock and 2 o'clock” infrapubic injections with or without ventral infiltration or a ring block. Given the inherent technical imprecision, large dosage of a local anesthetic (up to 50 mL) can be required to achieve an adequate block. Successful use of an ultrasound-guided approach has been reported wherevy  the dorsal penile nerves were precisely targeted in the fascial compartment just deep to Buck fascia, reducing the need for large local anesthetic. [21]


Intraoperative Details

The puncture technique, [22, 23]  a minimally invasive procedure, and blood aspiration are common therapies used to decompress the edematous prepuce.

To perform the puncture technique, commonly referred to as the Perth-Dundee method, an 18- or 21-gauge hypodermic needle is used to puncture the edematous prepuce at multiple sites and to release the trapped fluid (see image below). External drainage results in rapid resolution of edema, which is followed by manual reduction of the foreskin.

The puncture method to relieve preputial edema res The puncture method to relieve preputial edema resulting from paraphimosis. Using a needle, several punctures are made in the foreskin to relieve the trapped fluid.

Alternatively, blood aspiration of the penis may be attempted after a tourniquet has been applied.

If a severely constricting band of tissue precludes all forms of conservative or minimally invasive therapy, an emergency bedside dorsal slit procedure may be performed, followed by a delayed circumcision.

Dorsal Slit

After adequate local anesthesia with or without sedation or general anesthesia, the plane between the dorsal foreskin and the corona is identified.  Normally when performing a dorsal slit, a hemostat is then used to crush the foreskin at the 12 o’clock position which is also the midline of the dorsal foreskin. This is left in place for hemostasis for 30-60 seconds. The crushed area is then sharply incised with scissors. The edges are often over sewn with an interrupted or running dissolvable suture such as chromic.

However, when performing a dorsal slit for paraphimosis, one should identify the dorsal midline of the rolled preputial skin. Make a vertical incision at the junction of the rolled foreskin (identified as the point between the mucosal, smooth skin and the preputial thicker, dull skin. This should release the contricting tissue. Mobilize the foreskin so that it can slide over the glans and back and then oversew the cut edges [24] .

Regardless of the method used, urologic evaluation acutely in the emergency room setting and then following the acute interaction for consideration of circumcision are crucial. Do not consider circumcision in a neonate with hypospadias, a dorsal hood deformity, or a small penis. Refer the neonate to a urologist.


Postoperative Details

After the dorsal slit, petroleum jelly and sterile gauze or petrolatum gauze dressings may be applied over the sutures, followed by a sterile white gauze dressing. Prescribe oral narcotics and discharge the patient. Some surgeons also prescribe oral antibiotics. the patient should apply bacitracin or vasoline to the suture 2-3 times daily for the next 1-2 weeks or per the preference of the performing physician

Remove the dressing 24-48 hours after surgery. Advise patients to wear loose-fitting clothes, to gently wash the wound daily for the next 5-7 days, and to refrain from any sexual activity for the next 6 weeks to prevent breakdown of the sutures and incision line. Some surgeons additionally recommend keeping the wound completely dry to avoid inadvertent infection of the suture line.



Patients generally undergo follow-up examination in 2-3 weeks to check the wound. Assess the wound for signs of infection and inspect the suture line.

For excellent patient education resources, visit eMedicineHealth's Men's Health Center. Also, see eMedicineHealth's patient education articles Foreskin Problems and Circumcision.



Potential complications involved with any dorsal slit include bleeding, infection, shortening of penile skin, and urethral injury.

Postoperative bleeding is the most common complication. Meticulous hemostasis during the initial surgery is the rule. Bleeding may occur if a scab is pulled off during removal of the dressing. This bleeding can often be controlled with direct pressure. In rare cases, electrocautery or ligature is required.

Urethral injury is extremely rare.