The impact of spinal cord injury on sexual function: concerns of the general population

Spinal Cord. 2007 May;45(5):328-37. doi: 10.1038/ Epub 2006 Oct 10.


Study design: Secure, web-based survey.

Objectives: Obtain information from the spinal cord injured (SCI) population regarding sexual dysfunctions, with the aim of developing new basic science and clinical research and eventual therapies targeting these issues.

Setting: Worldwide web.

Methods: Individuals 18 years or older living with SCI. Participants obtained a pass-code to enter a secure website and answered survey questions. A total of 286 subjects completed the survey.

Results: The majority of participants stated that their SCI altered their sexual sense of self and that improving their sexual function would improve their quality of life (QoL). The primary reason for pursuing sexual activity was for intimacy need, not fertility. Bladder and bowel concerns during sexual activity were not strong enough to deter the majority of the population from engaging in sexual activity. However, in the subset of individuals concerned about bladder and/or bowel incontinence during sexual activity, this was a highly significant issue. In addition, the occurrence of autonomic dysreflexia (AD) during typical bladder or bowel care was a significant variable predicting the occurrence and distress of AD during sexual activity.

Conclusion: Sexual function and its resultant impact on QoL is a major issue to an overwhelming majority of people living with SCI. This certainly constitutes the need for expanding research in multiple aspects to develop future therapeutic interventions for sexual health and SCI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autonomic Dysreflexia / etiology
  • Autonomic Dysreflexia / physiopathology
  • Data Collection
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology
  • Fecal Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urinary Incontinence / etiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / physiopathology