Sexual Health Q&A

Can people with spinal instrumentation have satisfying sex lives?

Yes, it’s possible.

Spinal instrumentation is a surgical procedure that stabilizes the spine with implanted devices, such as rods, plates, screws, and hooks. People have spinal instrumentation for many reasons. The procedure can correct congenital spinal deformities and problems caused by trauma or illness. It can also help people who develop spinal problems as they age.

Sexual function in people with spinal instrumentation has not been widely studied or discussed. However, a May 2013 report in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine discusses the matter for people over age 50.

American researchers collected data from 54 men and women who had spinal instrumentation in the thoracic (middle) or lumbar (lower) vertebrae or in the pelvis. The patients’ mean age was 70 years.

Twenty-four percent of the participants had no sexual dysfunction at all. For 15%, symptoms were mild. Nineteen percent fell into the “moderate” category and 42% had severe sexual dysfunction.

Taking a closer look at the participants with severe dysfunction, the researchers found that 39% of this group lacked a partner. Their partners had either died or were too ill to have sex. Forty-eight percent of those with severe dysfunction had significant medical comorbidities – conditions and illnesses that could hinder their ability to have sex.

Those with minimal or mild physical disability were less likely to have sexual dysfunction.

Since 39% of the overall group had either no or mild dysfunction and most of the severe dysfunction could be explained by other factors, the authors concluded that satisfactory sex is very possible for this population. More study is needed, however, and they are working on plans for further research.

It is not clear how spinal instrumentation affects the sex lives of people under age 50.

However, people of any age who have spinal instrumentation are encouraged to discuss any sexual concerns with their doctors.