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SEXUALITY IN SPINAL INJURY: THE SPINAL CORD INJURED MALE: ERECTIONS

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Erections

     A male with SCI may, or may not, be able to achieve erection. The level, severity, time elapsed, and type of the injury may determine this.

  • Level: Generally, a complete lower level injury precludes the ability to have erections. However, persons with an upper level injury usually can have erections. In general, the higher the injury, the more chance of achieving and maintaining a complete erection.
  • Severity: If the injury is incomplete, there is a better chance for a complete erection.
  • Time Elapsed Since Injury: Men who are unable to have an erection shortly after the injury may regain the capability during the first year.
  • Type: Spastic paraplegics, for example, have a much greater chance of achieving an erection than individuals with flaccid paraplegia.

There are two types of erections:

  • Psychogenic erections result when messages are passed down the spinal cord from the brain to the sacral area. Depending on the level and completeness of the injury to the spinal cord, men with SCI may or may not experience psychogenic erections.

         In men with lower level injuries, researchers report that up to 83% with incomplete lower level injuries had psychogenic erections and up to 26% of men with complete lesions have psychogenic erections.

         In men with incomplete upper level injuries, up to 25% can achieve psychogenic erections.

  • Reflexogenic erections result from direct stimulation of the genital area. They are called reflexogenic because they are controlled by a reflex arc between the genital area and the cord.

    In men with upper level injuries, researchers report that up to 98% of men with incomplete upper level injuries have reflexogenic erections and up to 93% of men with complete upper level injuries have reflexogenic erections. 7% do not have erections.

Spontaneous erections may be experienced by spinal cord injured men.

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