A 3-year-old healthy uncircumcised male presents to the Emergency Department with five days of penis swelling and pain. Five days prior, his father noted that the patient’s foreskin appeared stuck behind the head of the penis. The patient was seen at an urgent care facility four days prior and was given an antifungal cream for presumed balanitis, however, this did not resolve the patient’s symptoms. Since that time, the penis has been getting progressively more swollen and painful. The patient has not experienced the inability to urinate, decreased urine output, penile discharge, other penile lesions, fever, chills, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, testicular pain, or testicular swelling.
Vitals: Within normal limits
General: Alert, anxious
Genitourinary: Penile swelling, erythema, and tenderness to palpation
Paraphimosis is a medical emergency due to the risk of tissue necrosis. A preputial or phimotic ring – a circumferential band of tissue – caught behind the glans causes swelling of penile tissue.
Case Question: In an uncircumcised male, visualization of what structure(s) indicates that the foreskin is retracted?
In the evaluation of painful penile swelling, the first step is to determine whether the patient is circumcised or not through a review of the medical record or discussion with the patient’s family. In an uncircumcised male, the critical next step is to assess for an entrapped and retracted foreskin (paraphimosis). Visualization of the glans penis and the urethral meatus as in this case demonstrates that the foreskin is retracted. Additionally, visualization of the glans penis and urethral meatus makes a scarred and unretractable foreskin (pathologic paraphimosis) unlikely to be the primary diagnosis. The differential diagnosis also includes hair tourniquet syndrome, chigger bites, and inflammation of the glans and foreskin (balanitis and balanoposthitis).
- In any male presenting with penile pain, it is critical to first ascertain his circumcision status. In an uncircumcised male, visualizing the glans and urethral meatus demonstrates that the foreskin is retracted.
- Paraphimosis is a medical emergency caused by an entrapped, retracted foreskin.
- Bragg BN, Kong EL, Leslie SW. Paraphimosis. 2021 May 4. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 29083645.
- 2. Simonis K, Rink M. Paraphimosis. In: Urology at a Glance. Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 2014:361-364. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-54859-8_65
Images and cases from the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) Clinical Images Exhibit at the 2021 SAEM Annual Meeting | Copyrighted by SAEM 2021 – all rights reserved. View other cases from this Clinical Image Series on ALiEM.
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