Weird Science: Plastic Surgery Patient Experiences Uncomfortable Side Effect

When Croatian reality television star Neven Ciganovic went under the knife for a series of procedures to enhance his stomach, chin, lips and nose, he got much more than he bargained for. Ciganovic awoke from his last rhinoplasty procedure to discover he had developed a condition called priapism, or an extended erection that is not always caused or alleviated by stimulation.

So, how did Ciganovic develop this condition – and should men considering plastic surgery be concerned about getting it too? Dr. Bruce Chau of Berkley, Michigan, did not treat Ciganovic, but he doesn’t think the average plastic surgery patient has much to be concerned about.

“Priapism is an extremely rare condition that causes an extended erection,” he said. “It can be caused by many things, but in the case of Mr. Ciganovic it appears it was caused by the painkiller Propofol, which was used during his rhinoplasty procedure.”

Propofol relaxes the blood vessels that are responsible for achieving an erection. In extreme cases, Chau said, priapism has been known to occur, but those cases are very, very rare.

“In mild cases, patients are sometimes able to allow the erection to go away on its own, but in the case of Mr. Ciganovic, medical intervention was necessary,” he said.

That medical intervention came in the form of a procedure in which the blood from the penis was aspirated. This essentially drains the blood from the penis, allowing the erection to subside and the penis to return to normal. In some cases, the blood can be aspirated via a needle, but more severe cases may require an incision to drain the blood.

As for those hoping to avoid these painful solutions, Chau cautions patients who believe they could be experiencing priapism to seek immediate medical attention.

“The hope is that the priapism goes away on its own, naturally, but experiencing an erection for longer than four hours can cause permanent damage to the penis, including permanent loss of erection and permanent scarring,” he said.