Man's penis infected with life-threatening 'flesh-eating bug' after he injected petroleum jelly to make it larger

The 45-year-old man, whose identity has not been revealed, visited the emergency room as he was feeling unwell and suffering itchiness on his penis for five days


                            Man's penis infected with life-threatening 'flesh-eating bug' after he injected petroleum jelly to make it larger
(Getty Images)
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A man's penis rotted away after he injected it with petroleum jelly in a bid to enlarge it.

The 45-year-old man, whose identity has not been revealed, visited the emergency room as he was feeling unwell and suffering itchiness on his penis for five days, according to an account published in Urology Case Reports by Dr. Amer Amin of St. Vincent's Hospital.

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Amin said, on examining the man, they found that his penis was tender, had a severe build-up of fluids, and patches of visible rotting flesh. When questioned about his sexual history, the man admitted he had injected petroleum jelly, the primary component of vaseline, into his penis two years ago to increase its size.

The procedure had left him with a condition known as Fournier's gangrene, a life-threatening 'flesh-eating bug' that affects the genital region. It causes systemic toxicity, pain, and fevers, with prompt diagnosis and immediate debridement critical due to how rapidly it progresses if left untreated.

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"Penile self-injections are performed in order to attempt to increase penile size and have been reported to cause latent pain, ulceration, and Fournier's gangrene," Amin wrote. "Common materials used for penile augmentation that has been described in the literature are mineral oil, petroleum jelly, nandrolone decanoate [androgen and anabolic steroids] and waxes."

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"The most likely reason for the development of Fournier's in this patient would be related to having a foreign material.... which has secondarily become infected after the integrity of the skin barrier was breached after itching at the area," he added.

The patient was rushed to surgery where doctors removed the rotting tissue and drained the pus-filled pockets, and also found "a large amount of petroleum jelly." Following the operation, he was admitted into intensive care so he could be prepped for more surgeries.

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In total, Amin said he underwent three operations to remove all of the infected and necrotic tissue, most of which were in the scrotum. He eventually started feeling better after 10 days in the hospital, with his fever subsiding and his condition stabilizing. 

His care was subsequently turned over to the plastic surgery team, who performed multiple penile skin grafts and closure of the scrotum. He was discharged from the hospital one month later.

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