Sexual Health Q&A

Can stents help men with erectile dysfunction?

Good blood flow to the penis is essential for an erection. If a man has poor blood flow, he may not be able to achieve an erection firm enough for sex. In other words, he may experience erectile dysfunction (ED).

Sometimes this happens because of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), when fatty substances build up on artery walls. These fatty deposits block the pathway and make it difficult for blood to flow through. Atherosclerosis is common in men with heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. It’s also common in obese men.

There are ways to improve blood flow, however, and one way is angioplasty, a procedure that uses stents.

A stent is a tiny mesh tube that supports or widens an artery that has been blocked or weakened. Stents are often associated with heart surgery, but they can be used in other parts of the body, too.

For men with erectile dysfunction, the stent is placed in the internal pudendal artery, located in the pelvis (not the penis). This artery is responsible for blood flow into the penis. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and usually takes one to two hours.

Stents can be effective, but they aren’t appropriate for all men. Some men cannot have stents because their arteries are already too blocked.

Also, stents are a fairly new treatment for ED. Further research is needed to see how effective the procedure is, especially for the long-term. Possible complications must be studied further as well.

Most men try other ED treatments, such as medications, before considering a stenting procedure.