Many people who sustain a spinal cord injury are concerned and uninformed about sexual functioning and sexual health after the spinal cord injury. Sexual function and sexual health is an area that has many promising options available to maximize potential for sexual intimacy.
Our clinic provides services for erectile dysfunction, infertility, and sexuality and sexual functioning education. We are committed to working with patients and their partners to ensure the best results possible in a safe and confidential environment.
Services for Erectile Dysfunction
After spinal cord injury, some men can achieve adequate erections without interventions. However, many are unable to have an erection or feel the erection they do achieve is not adequate for intimacy or intercourse.
There are a number of options available to help with erectile dysfunction after spinal cord injury.
Oral medications are the most frequently used option to help treat erectile dysfunction after spinal cord injury. There are a number of options available. In the sexual dysfunction clinic, we review all options and teach how to use the medications to optimize effectiveness.
A drug-free and non-invasive option, vacuum therapy draws blood into the penis using a hand-held pump. A constriction band is then placed over the penis to maintain the erection for intercourse.
Erections can be temporarily restored by injecting medications into the base of the penis. This induces blood flow into the penis resulting in an erection. Our clinicians teach patients and their partners the safest and easiest method for injections.
Penile implants can help restore sexual functioning. Although we encourage patients to try non-surgical options first, we are able to refer patients to urological surgeons for evaluation of surgical techniques.
Services for Fertility
One of the most frequently asked questions by people after their spinal cord injury is “Can I still have children?” After spinal cord injury, two things may make fathering a child more difficult. One is the ability to ejaculate. The other is semen quality and quantity. There are treatments available to help with both circumstances.
In the sexual dysfunction clinic at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, we perform procedures that stimulate semen production and enable men to father children after a spinal cord injury.
This technique uses a vibrator, that when applied to the penis, stimulates a reflex in the spinal cord and stimulates ejaculation to occur. Generally, vibratory stimulation is most effective with men who have spasms (reflexes) in their legs. This procedure is considered non-invasive and is the first method tried with most individuals.
A benefit of this procedure is the possibility it can be performed at home. When vibratory stimulation is successful in the clinic, we teach individuals how to perform the procedure and instruct them on how to inseminate in the privacy of their home, which is preferred by many couples.
Another option used to stimulate semen release in males after spinal cord injury is electro-ejaculation. This procedure is successful for most individuals and does not require intact reflexes. The procedure involves electrically stimulating the nerves so that semen can be released.