VSL:SCIENCE // Phantom pains in man’s third leg

After the Battle of Gettysburg, a neurologist named Silas Weir Mitchell noticed a strange phenomenon among wounded Union soldiers: They continued to feel pain in their recently amputated limbs.

But phantom pains aren’t limited to limbs, exactly. A Japanese medical journal has reported a rare case of phantom erectile penis. The patient underwent sexual-reassignment surgery (he became a she) and, in the days following, began to experience a bizarre sensation: His (or her) penis was still there! It was erect! And there was nothing he (or she!) could do about it! In the end, the doctors decided to pursue a second surgery, in which all the remaining genital nerve fibers were removed; after six torturous months, the phantom erection disappeared. A flaccid penis never felt so good.

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