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Volume 10 (2010), Pages 1174-1179
Review Article

Penile Embryology and Anatomy

Department of Urology, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

Received 1 March 2010; Accepted 12 March 2010

Academic Editor: Jeffrey Palmer

Copyright © 2010 Jenny H. Yiee and Laurence S. Baskin.


Knowledge of penile embryology and anatomy is essential to any pediatric urologist in order to fully understand and treat congenital anomalies. Sex differentiation of the external genitalia occurs between the 7thand 17th weeks of gestation. The Y chromosome initiates male differentiation through the SRY gene, which triggers testicular development. Under the influence of androgens produced by the testes, external genitalia then develop into the penis and scrotum. Dorsal nerves supply penile skin sensation and lie within Buck's fascia. These nerves are notably absent at the 12 o'clock position. Perineal nerves supply skin sensation to the ventral shaft skin and frenulum. Cavernosal nerves lie within the corpora cavernosa and are responsible for sexual function. Paired cavernosal, dorsal, and bulbourethral arteries have extensive anastomotic connections. During erection, the cavernosal artery causes engorgement of the cavernosa, while the deep dorsal artery leads to glans enlargement. The majority of venous drainage occurs through a single, deep dorsal vein into which multiple emissary veins from the corpora and circumflex veins from the spongiosum drain. The corpora cavernosa and spongiosum are all made of spongy erectile tissue. Buck's fascia circumferentially envelops all three structures, splitting into two leaves ventrally at the spongiosum. The male urethra is composed of six parts: bladder neck, prostatic, membranous, bulbous, penile, and fossa navicularis. The urethra receives its blood supply from both proximal and distal directions.