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Sexual Dysfunction Common a Year After Major Trauma

Rate double that for healthy patients, regardless of gender, site of injury, study says

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly a third of moderate-to-severe trauma patients reported some degree of sexual dysfunction a year after the trauma itself, a new report says.

The finding was independent of the type and location on the body of the injury and the patients' gender.

"Unlike other studies that have shown an increased risk of sexual dysfunction after specific injuries involving parts of the body that are involved in sexual function, such as the pelvis and spine or genitalia, it appears from our study that just the general occurrence of a traumatic event may result in sexual dysfunction," researcher Dr. Mathew D. Sorensen, a resident in urology at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a news release.

The study, presented this month at the 2008 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in San Francisco, looked at more than 10,000 patients treated in 14 states across the country.

The study also found that the sexual dysfunction rate was about double what it was in studies of healthy patients, Sorensen said. For patients under age 50, the rate was about triple. While more than two-thirds of the patients in the study were male, sexual dysfunction rates were similar for men (21 percent) and woman (23 percent).

"In fact, we found that a moderate to severe traumatic injury imparts a risk of sexual dysfunction above and beyond the risk that may be imparted by known risk factors for sexual dysfunction, such as increasing age, diabetes, and lower socioeconomic status," he said.

Sorensen said the study should be a wake-up call for most practitioners, who usually only equate the problem with erectile dysfunction in men. "Sexual function is a major determinant of quality of life, impacts both men and women, and if physicians don't ask patients about their sexual health, the patients are unlikely to bring it up. This is something physicians should be asking their patients about, because there are excellent medications that work in the majority of patients. We hope this study brings the issue to light and draws attention to it," he said.

The researchers were unsure why trauma patients have lingering sexual dysfunction issues, but Sorensen said that it may be linked to psychological effects of trauma and its aftermath.

More information

The National Women's Health Resource Center has more about sexual dysfunction.

SOURCE: American College of Surgeons, news release, Oct. 13, 2008

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