Wednesday, July 29, 1998 Published at 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Female sex organ 10 times bigger than thought
Medical textbooks are inaccurate about female sex organs, says O'Donnell
The female sexual organ is 10 times larger than most people realise, according to a urology expert.
A study by Helen O'Connell of the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia shows that surgeons performing hysterectomies and bladder operations may be inadvertently damaging women's sex lives because the female sex organ is much larger than has been previously depicted.
Ms O'Donnell has done detailed dissections of female corpses and discovered the length of the clitoris, whose external tip or glans is connected to a mass of erectile tissue inside the woman, was twice as large as was depicted in most anatomy books and 10 times bigger than the average person thought.
She also found that the dorsal nerves which carry sensory messages from the organ were bigger than previously thought.
This means surgeons may be damaging sensitivity when they perform invasive operations in the area, for example, on the bladder or womb.
Ms O'Donnell's study could help prevent such damage in the future. Her research is carried in this week's New Scientist magazine.
Ms O'Donnell says relatively little is known about the clitoris. Even Gray's Anatomy, the bible of anatomists, does not go into detail about it.
And she says many depictions in textbooks are inaccurate.
The New Scientist puts this down to "Victorian prudishness", the fact that most anatomy studies of women are done on elderly people whose sexual organs shrink with age and the fact that the female sex organ is hidden by bone and fat.