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Intracavernosal injections

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Intracavernous injection therapy is the most effective form of pharmacotherapy for ED

  • does not require an intact nerve supply and can therefore be highly effective after spinal cord injuries and after major pelvic surgery such as after radical prostatectomy
  • due to the invasive nature of the procedure long-term compliance is poor

Alprostadil was the first and until recently was the only licensed drug approved for intracavernous ED treatment.

  • this treatment is effective in providing adequate erections - up to 80% of patients respond to treatment with intracavernosal alprostadil (1)
  • erection occurs typically 5-15 minutes after penile injection and frequently last 30-40 minutes, although the duration can be dose dependent.
  • contraindications include
    • history of hypersensitivity to alprostadil
    • a risk of priapism
    • bleeding disorders
  • requires training, reasonable manual dexterity and eyesight. Partner participation in the consultation and training programme can be valuable and improve long-term compliance.
  • a common side effect include
    • penile pain on injection (usually mild)
    • priapism may occur
    • penile fibrosis may occur - reported incidence varies from <1% to >20%. (1)

Papaverine has also been given by intracavernosal injection for impotence and is still used ‘off-license’ in some patients as monotherapy but it has more complications than alprostadil

  • a combination prepaeration of papaverine and alprostadil may be useful due to reduce side effects by using a lower dose of each drug

Recently a combination of aviptadil (formerly known as vaso-intestinal polypeptide), and phentolamine (a short-acting alpha-adrenoreceptor antagonist that also has a direct effect on smooth muscle, causing relaxation) was approved and licensed in several European countries for ED.


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