Men suffering from a condition known as erectile dysfunction (ED) may soon find relief through a newly developed penile implant.

Dr. Brian Le, a urologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, came up with a better way to cure patients with ED. He and his colleagues from Northwestern University and Southern Illinois University developed a penile implant that can be activated using heat.

The researchers hope that their new technology can help restore erectile function, especially to those who developed sexual impotence due to cancer or injury.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Options

For people who want to have penile implants installed in their bodies, they either opt for those that use inflatable pumps or those that use malleable rods.

Inflatable penile pumps operate by using negative pressure to help draw blood into the patient's penis. These can be used just before engaging in sexual intercourse.

However, some ED sufferers who use inflatable penile implants report discomfort and bruising when they try to pump their devices. Others even claim experiencing numbness in their penis, which can greatly affect their sexual mood.

Another option is to use implants with malleable rods attached. These devices help keep the penis semi-rigid and erect during intercourse.

Malleable rod penile implants are popular among men in developing countries because the surgery is simpler and more affordable compared to other procedures. The resulting permanently erect penis, however, can cause discomfort and even tissue damage in some patients.

Heat-Activated Penile Implants

To provide a better option for ED patients, Le and his team developed an implant made of a nitinol exoskeleton. Nitinol is a superelastic metal used to make medical devices for endovascular surgery.

The new penile implant can be inserted into the body of the patient through a simplified operation. While the device will stay flaccid at body temperature, it can expand and return to its normal size when heated.

The researchers are currently working on a functional remote, which can be used to control the length and girth of the user's penis.

Le and his colleagues hope that their penile implant can help improve the lives of men suffering from ED.

"It's a survivorship issue — restoring function can help people feel whole in their bodies again," Le said.

As much as 40 percent of men between 40 and 70 years old develop some degree of erectile dysfunction. About a third of these patients don't even benefit from medications such as Viagra. The new heat-activated penile implant can provide ED sufferers with relief from their sexual impotence.

The findings of the University of Wisconsin-Madison-led study are featured in the journal Urology.

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