Sexual rehabilitation in women with spinal cord injury: a critical review of the literature

Spinal Cord. 2010 Dec;48(12):842-9. doi: 10.1038/sc.2010.36. Epub 2010 Apr 13.


Study design: Review article.

Objectives: Critical review of literature on the multiple aspects of sexual rehabilitation in women with spinal cord injury (SCI) from initial recovery to long-term follow-up.

Setting: Neuro-urology Department.

Methods: Studies on sexuality selected from PubMed from 1993 to 2009.

Results: Literature supported by significant statistical analyses reports that females with complete tetraglegia deserved special attention immediately at initial recovery; sexual intercourse is much more difficult for them (as compared with other women with SCI) mainly because of autonomic dysreflexia and urinary incontinence. There are sparse data on predictable factors favoring sexual rehabilitation such as the age SCI was incurred, the importance of one's sexual orientation, and the SCI etiology. Information after initial discharge is based chiefly on questionnaires, which report that as more time passes since the injury, patients attain more sexual satisfaction compared with recently injured women. Studies on neurological changes after SCI, and their effect on sexual response, are supported by a significant statistical analysis, but with few SCI patients. One topic reported the effect of sildenafil on sexuality, without benefit. No paper offers any detailed analysis on the sexual impact of medical and psychological treatments related to SCI. Literature reports that some co-morbidities are more prevalent in women with SCI compared with able-bodied women but data on sexual functioning are missing.

Conclusion: To improve sexual rehabilitation services, sexual issues and response require evaluation during periodical check-ups using validated questionnaires administered by a physician 'guide' who coordinates professional operators thus providing personalized programmable interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / rehabilitation*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / rehabilitation*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*