Objectives: Sexual dysfunction is common in women with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) and other neurologic conditions. Sildenafil has previously been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of erectile dysfunction due to SCI. This study is the first to evaluate the sexual and cardiovascular effects of sildenafil in women with SCIs in a controlled, laboratory setting.
Methods: Nineteen premenopausal women with SCIs were randomly assigned to receive either sildenafil (50 mg) or placebo in a double-blind, crossover design study. Physiologic and subjective measures of sexual response, heart rate, and blood pressure were recorded during baseline and sexual stimulation conditions. Adverse events were also recorded.
Results: Significant increases in subjective arousal (SA) were observed with both drug (P <0.01) and sexual stimulation conditions (P <0.001), and a borderline significant (P <0.07) effect of drug administration on vaginal pulse amplitude (VPA) was noted. Maximal responses occurred when sildenafil was combined with visual and manual sexual stimulation. Cardiovascular data showed modest increases in heart rate (+/-5 bpm) and mild decreases in blood pressure (+/-4 mm Hg) across all stimulation conditions, consistent with the peripheral vasodilatory mechanism of the drug. Sildenafil was well tolerated with no evidence of significant adverse events.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that sildenafil may partially reverse the sexual dysfunction commonly associated with SCI in women. Consistent with previous findings in men, the sexual effects of the drug were most evident under conditions of optimal stimulation. Mild, clinically insignificant cardiovascular effects were also noted. Further large-scale studies of sildenafil's effects in women with neurogenic sexual dysfunction are strongly indicated.