How Are Nerve Grafts Used To Treat Erectile Dysfunction, And What Are The Potential Complications/Side Effects?

James Mohler, M.D., Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Jan. 01, 2009 -- Question: How are nerve grafts used to treat erectile dysfunction, and what are the potential complications/side effects?

Answer: Nerve grafts are a newer technique to replace a neurovascular bundle that is resected at the time of operation.

When only one neurovascular bundle must be resected, many men will still recover erections. But when both neurovascular bundles are resected, the recovery of erections almost never occurs.

Especially in this case, consideration can be made for using a nerve graft at the time of operation. The nerve is usually harvested from the lower leg. This should be considered a research endeavor as two leading centers have championed this technique but many other centers have not been able to duplicate these results.

Other centers are interested in regrowing nerves along scaffolds that are placed at the time of operation, and this area of research seems to be promising. It involves the use of nerve growth factors and even nerve stem cells to regenerate nerves along scaffolds that are placed at the time of operation. This is all a very exciting new area for research, but at this time I think still remains in the realm of research endeavor.