Does sildenafil cause myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death?

Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2008;8(1):1-7. doi: 10.2165/00129784-200808010-00001.


Sildenafil was the first oral compound to be approved for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. In this paper, we review the current knowledge of the effects of sildenafil on myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death. The first factor we examine is the sexual activity itself. As several studies have shown, the relative risk for an acute coronary syndrome during intercourse is not very high. Several studies examining the effects of sildenafil on mortality have been published during recent years. The great majority of these studies found that sildenafil is not an extra risk factor for an acute coronary syndrome or sudden cardiac death. In 1997, the rate of myocardial infarction in men 55-64 years of age was 1542 per 1,000000 in the US. According to this, the expected number of deaths as a result of myocardial infarction in patients 55-64 years of age receiving sildenafil, in the 24-hour period after use, from late March 1997 to mid November 1998, should have been 52. Instead, the number of reported deaths were only 15. One very optimistic finding was that sildenafil not only does not increase mortality, but in fact 'preconditions' the heart and has a cardioprotective effect. Besides, many studies have shown that sildenafil does not reduce the exercise tolerance in men with known coronary artery disease. As far as BP is concerned, the differences before and after the use of sildenafil are not clinically significant. The only contraindications for sildenafil are co-administration with alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists or with nitric oxide donors. According to the most recent studies, isoform 5 of phosphodiesterase has also been detected in the myocardium and controls the soluble pool of 3', 5'-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Sildenafil is very specific for cGMP but it may increase cyclic adenosine monophosphate in the myocardium indirectly. This does not occur with small therapeutic doses of the drug. There is some dispute regarding the association of sildenafil with arrhythmias, where the available evidence is not clear. However, there are suspicions that sildenafil may cause sympathetic activation. The overall conclusion is that sildenafil is a safe drug and that its appropriate use does not seem to increase the risk for myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Piperazines / adverse effects*
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Purines / adverse effects
  • Purines / therapeutic use
  • Risk
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones / adverse effects*
  • Sulfones / therapeutic use
  • Vasodilator Agents / adverse effects*
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use


  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Sildenafil Citrate