A baby born in Iraq late last year has made history as the first recorded case of a human with 3 distinct penises, according to a new case report. The child presented with an extreme form of supernumerary penises – which consists of any condition involving multiple penises – and quickly caught the attention of medical experts as the first known case of triphallia.
“Supernumerary penises is an extremely rare congenital urogenital anomaly which was first reported in 1609 by Wecker, after that around 100 cases of diphallia are reported in literature. Duplication of the penis or diphallia is reported to affect one in every 5–6 million live births.” state the authors in the paper, which was published in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports.
The child was brought to the attention of surgeons at 3 months old after the parents noticed some swelling of the scrotum, alongside the strange protrusions that resembled small penises. An examination highlighted a hydrocele (a collection of fluid surrounding the testicle), as well as two extra projections. One extended from the root of the original penis and had a glans – that is, the structure at the top of the penis or in a clitoris – whilst the other was below the scrotum.
In cases such as these, it is important to consider not just the health aspects of the patient, but also the ethical considerations. After consulting with a variety of health experts, the child underwent surgery to remove the hydrocele and the two extra penises. Surgery for supernumerary penises requires specialist surgeons, as each case is different and may require reconstruction of the urethra.
The surgery was a success, and the child has no adverse effects after a one-year follow-up.
Whilst this case is unique to our knowledge, diphallia has certainly occurred before. Diphallia can be a genetic condition, but evidence also suggests that drugs and infection during pregnancy can also play a role. Having multiple penises is not dangerous, and most of the time the extra phallus does nothing other than get in the way. However, diphallia is associated with other congenital issues that do need attention, including problems in the digestive system and urinary tract.
Sadly, infants with associated congenital defects tend to live shorter lives than the average person, so the medical team responsible for the child with triphallia is requesting follow-ups once the child hits puberty and before marriage. Despite this, the child appears to have no other issues, so it looks extremely promising that they may live a full and normal life.
Diphallia certainly hasn’t stopped one Reddit user from living life to the fullest, not in spite of, but because of his multiple penises. Nicknamed "Double Dick Dude", he took the internet by storm many years ago after hosting an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit and told the world about his unusual life. In the perhaps lucky position that both his penises work, Double Dick Dude went on to write a book available on Amazon and continues to be a pretty fascinating internet personality.