Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 263–272 | Cite as

The anatomy of erection

  • G. Benoit
  • V. Delmas
  • C. Gillot
  • A. Jardin
Original Articles


Erection is due to a neurovascular mechanism: an inflow of arterial blood and an obstruction of venous return. The direction of this mechanism is of neurologic origin: (1) control of the smooth muscle tissue of the corpora cavernosa by the autonomic system controlled by reflex centers in the cord or cortical centers accessible to multiple (visual) stimuli (2) control of the perineal muscles by the somatic system. Tumescence is due to a reduction in the alpha-sympathetic tonus of the cavernous tissue permitting influx of arterial blood, and to decreased venous flow from compression of the subalbugineal venous network against the tunica albuginea of the corpus cavernosurn. Once this obstruction to the venous return has been achieved, the arterial flow in the corpora cavernosa decreases but persists; the arterial blood in the corpora cavernosa is renewed and not shut off. Rigidity is due to an increase in intracavernous arterial pressure simultaneous with contraction of the perineal muscles (ischiocavernosus) under the somatic control of the pudendal nerve.

Key words

Erection Erectile bodies Penis 

Anatomie de l'érection


L'érection est due à un mécanisme vasculonerveux: vasculaire par l'apport de sang artériel et le freinage du retour veineux; la commande de ce mécanisme est d'origine nerveuse: contrôle du tissu musculaire lisse des corps caverneux par le système végétatif contrôlé par des centres médullaires réflexes ou corticaux acessibles à des stimulations multiples (visuelles); contrôle des muscles périnéaux par le système somatique. La tumescence est due à une réduction du tonus alpha-sympathique du tissu caverneux qui permet l'afflux de sang artériel, à une réduction du flux veineux par une compression du réseau veineux sous-albuginée par l'albuginée du corps caverneux. Lorsque cette gêne au retour veineux est réalisée, le flux artériel dans les corps caverneux diminue mais persiste; il existe un renouvellement du sang artériel sans séquestration dans les corps caverneux. La rigidité est due à une augmentation de la pression artérielle intra-caverneuse concomitante de la contraction des muscles périnéaux: ischio-caverneux, sous contrôle somatique par le nerf honteux.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Benoit
    • 1
  • V. Delmas
    • 2
  • C. Gillot
    • 1
  • A. Jardin
    • 1
  1. 1.Service d'Urologie, Laboratoire d'AnatomieHôpital Universitaire de BicêtreLe Kremlin Bicêtre CedexFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire d'AnatomieBiomédicale des Saints-PèresParisFrance

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