Viagra and the other oral erectile dysfunction medications have revolutionized the treatment of male impotence, but unfortunately they don’t work for everyone. The nondrug options available to men suffering from male impotence haven’t changed a great deal over the last several decades, but an exciting new development in penile implants is on the horizon.
How Existing Implants Work
As things now stand, penile implants involve multiple components and vary in size depending on the length of the patient’s penis when erect. The best of the implants now available typically includes three components: a pump, reservoir of fluid, and a flexible plastic cylinder that replaces the corpora cavernosa — twin columns of spongy erectile tissue that run the length of the penile shaft. When erection is desired, it can be achieved by activating the pump that then moves fluid out of the reservoir into the flexible cylinder to create the semblance of an erect penis. Because of their multiple parts, the surgery required to implant these devices is complex and tedious.
Early Testing of New Implant
Urologist Brian Le, M.D., affiliated with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, teamed up with colleagues at Northwestern and Southern Illinois universities to explore the potential of a heat-activated penile implant. Their preliminary testing of this new implant was documented in a study published in the January 2017 issue of “Urology.”
Their implant consists of a nickel-titanium shape memory alloy prosthesis that expands and becomes erect when a small amount of heat is applied. Much simpler to implant, the heat-activated prosthesis stands alone and needs no auxiliary parts, such as the pump and reservoir that are part of currently available penile implants.
Pleased with the results of their preliminary testing, Le and his colleagues are continuing to work on the project, focusing now on a remote control device to activate the implant. They hope the new implant can be brought to market in five to 10 years.
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