Aphallia - congenital absence of the penis: a systematic review

BMC Urol. 2024 Mar 28;24(1):75. doi: 10.1186/s12894-024-01445-4.


Background: Aphallia is a rare congenital anomaly often associated with other urogenital anomalies. The management of aphallia cases for both the immediate and long-term treatment of patients with aphallia pose a major dilemma. Patients are at risk for psychosocial and psychosexual challenges throughout life.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted on aphallia cases. We searched online databases until March 2023 for relevant articles and performed according to the PRISMA-P guidelines.

Results: Of the 43 articles screened, there were 33 articles included. A total of 41 patients were analyzed qualitatively. Asia is the region with the most aphallia cases with 53% (n:22), while the United States is the country with the most most reported aphallia cases 31% (n:13). Most cases were identified as male sex (n: 40), and most cases were neonate with 68% (n:28) cases. Physical examination generally found 85% (N = 35) with normal scrotal development and palpable testes. The most affected system with anomalies is the genitourinary system with fistulas in 80% (n:29) cases. Initial management in 39% (n:16) of patients involved vesicostomy. Further management of 31% (n:13) included phalloplasty or penile reconstruction, and 12% (n:5) chose female sex. 17% (n:7) of patients refused medical treatment or were lost to follow-up, and 12% (n = 5) patients deceased.

Conclusion: Aphallia is a rare condition and is often associated with other inherited genitourinary disorders. In most cases, physical examinations are normal except for the absence of a phallus, and laboratory testing shows normal results. The initial management typically involves the vesicostomy procedure. Subsequent management focuses on gender determination. Currently, male sex is preferred over female. Due to the significant variability, the rarity of cases, and the lack of long-term effect reporting in many studies on aphallia, further research is needed to minimize bias.

Keywords: Aphallia; Congenital anomaly; Fistula; Sex determination; Vesicostomy.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Penile Diseases*
  • Penis / surgery
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic
  • Urogenital Abnormalities*