In the human male, the urethra is about 8 inches (20 cm) long and opens at the end of the penis. The urethra provides an exit for urine as well as semen during ejaculation.
The urethra is divided into four parts in men, named after the location:
- Pre-Prostatic Urethra:This is the intramural part of the urethra and varies between 0.5 and 1.5 cm in length depending on the fullness of the bladder.
- Prostatic Urethra:Crosses through the prostate gland. There are several openings: (1) the ejaculatory duct receives sperm from the vas deferens and ejaculate fluid from the seminal vesicle, (2) several prostatic ducts where fluid from the prostate enters and contributes to the ejaculate, (3) the prostatic utricle, which is merely an indentation. These openings are collectively called the verumontanum.
- Membranous Urethra :A small (1 or 2 cm) portion passing through the external urethral sphincter. This is the narrowest part of the urethra. It is located in the deep perineal pouch. The bulbourethral glands (Cowper’s gland) are found posterior to this region but open in the spongy urethra.
- Spongy urethra (orpenile urethra):Runs along the length of the penis on its ventral (underneath) surface. It is about 15–16 cm in length, and travels through the corpus spongiosum. The ducts from the urethral gland (gland of Littre) enter here. The openings of the bulbourethral glands are also found here. Some textbooks will subdivide the spongy urethra into two parts, the bulbous and pendulous urethra. The urethral lumen runs effectively parallel to the penis, except at the narrowest point, the external urethral meatus, where it is vertical. This produces a spiral stream of urine and has the effect of cleaning the external urethral meatus. The lack of an equivalent mechanism in the female urethra partly explains why urinary tract infections occur so much more frequently in females.