Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 24 Apr 2022

The penis (plural: penises or, rarely, penes) is the external midline urinary and reproductive structure of the male urogenital system.

Please note that as per standard anatomic position, the penis is described with the flaccid phallus against the anterior abdominal wall, the dorsal surface contacts the abdominal wall and the ventral surface faces anteriorly.

The gross anatomy of the penis can be divided into five sections: 

  • loosely connected to the tunica albuginea
  • distally folded to form the prepuce (foreskin) at the corona of the penis
  • the internal layer of the prepuce is continuous with the neck and continues over the glans to the external urethral orifice
  • the frenulum is a median fold of skin at the urethral aspect of the glans running between the orifice and the deep surface of the prepuce
  • consists of three cylindrical structures of erectile tissue:
    • penile crura (paired) attach to the pubic arch. These join towards the symphyseal border and continue as the corpora cavernosa.
    • the bulb of the penis is a median structure found between the crura and is attached to the perineal membrane. It narrows to continue as the corpus spongiosum. The urethra pierces its deep aspect to traverse the bulb as the bulbar urethra and continues to the corpus spongiosum.
  • consists of three erectile structures, which are continuations of the structures described above: the corpora cavernosa (right and left) and the corpus spongiosum (median)
  • during an erection, these cylinders become engorged with blood
  • the urethra courses through the corpus spongiosum and opens at the tip of the penis (glans) via the meatus
  • two suspensory ligaments support the body - fundiform and triangular ligaments
  • paired dorsal structures, encased in the tunica albuginea but separated by a median fibrous septum
  • the urethral aspect has a wide groove where the corpus spongiosum lies
  • a dorsal groove houses the deep dorsal vein
  • ends distally at the proximal part of the glans penis
  • lies ventrally in the groove of the corpus cavernosum
  • contains the penile part of the urethra (continuation of the bulbar part of the urethra), being approximately 15 cm in length
  • cylindrical in shape and expands distally to become the glans penis. The glans curves dorsally over the distal corpus cavernosum. The corona gland projects from the base of the glans and contain multiple preputial glands (as well as on the penile neck) which secrete sebaceous smegma.

It is derived mainly from branches of the internal pudendal artery:

  • perineal artery
    • (together with the posterior scrotal and inferior rectal arteries) supplies the tissues between the anus and penile bulb
  • branches of the common penile artery
    • artery of the bulb of the penis (bulbourethral artery)
    • cavernosal artery (deep artery of the penis)
      • divide within the trabeculae of the corpus cavernosum to either end in capillary networks or branch into helicine arteries (most seen in the posterior region of the corpus cavernosum).
      • erection is caused by a rapid flow from the helicine arteries into the corpus cavernosum. This distension further contributes to the erection as the venous outflow is obstructed.
    • dorsal artery of the penis
      • supplies the corpus spongiosum
      • supplies penile skin by some branches coursing through the dartos layer
      • supplies the tunica albuginea of the corpus cavernosum via a circumflex branch that courses around the shaft of the penis
  • deep dorsal vein (unpaired) drains the corpus cavernosum and corpus spongiosum
  • superficial dorsal vein (unpaired) drains the prepuce and penile skin
  • penile skin: accompanies the external pudendal vessels to the superficial inguinal nodes
  • glans: to deep inguinal and external iliac nodes
  • erectile tissue and penile urethra: to internal iliac lymph nodes

Arises from the genital tubercle (from the cranial end of the cloacal membrane), which lengthens to form the phallus (male and female). This then further lengthens to form the penis in males.

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: anatomy of the penis (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2: penis anatomy (diagram)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 3: arterial supply to the penis (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 4: venous drainage of the penis (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.