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Heat-activated Penile Implant Could Be Available in 5 – 10 Years

Feb 07, 2017

Heat-activated Penile Implant Could Be Available in 5 – 10 Years

Scientists have created a heat-activated penile implant that, in time, could be an additional option for men with erectile dysfunction (ED).

ED – the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex - is a common problem for men, especially as they get older. It is often a complication of other medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease. Men may also develop ED after cancer treatment or an injury to the genitals.

Several ED treatments are available, including oral medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. However, these medications do not work for all men, and some patients cannot take them because of interactions with other drugs. Injections, suppositories, vacuum devices are alternatives, but they aren’t suitable for all men.

When these ED treatment options aren’t viable, many men turn to penile implants. Nowadays, the most popular type of implant an inflatable device. Spongy tissue in the penis is replaced with cylinders. When a man wants an erection, he activates a special pump in the scrotum, which fills the cylinders with fluid. When he is finished with sexual activity, he can deactivate the pump and the penis goes flaccid again.

While effective, inflatable implants require a rather complicated surgical process because they have separate components. Placing the heat-activated implant could be simpler, scientists say.

The new implant is made from a nickel-titanium alloy called Nitinol, a flexible metal with other medical applications. For example, stents – tubes used to keep arteries open – are sometimes made of Nitinol.

Nitinol’s chemical properties allow it to “remember” a different shape and assume that shape when heated. In the case of a penile implant, a man would wave a remote-control device over his penis when he wanted an erection. The device would heat the implant to a temperature just a few degrees above the man’s normal body temperature, causing the implant to expand in length and girth. The device would then be deactivated when desired.

Study co-author Brian Le of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues are now working on the remote-control device. If further studies and trials are successful, the implant could be available in five to ten years.

“We’re hoping that, with a better device, a better patient experience, and a simpler surgery, more urologists would perform this operation, and more patients would want to try the device, “Dr. Le said in a university press release.

Results of the scientists’ work with a Nitinol prototype implant were published online in September in the journal Urology.


University of Wisconsin-Madison

Smith, Susan Lampert

“Heat-activated penile implant might restore sexual function in men with E.D.”

(December 28, 2016)


Le, Brian, et al.

“A Novel Thermal-activated Shape Memory Penile Prosthesis: Comparative Mechanical Testing”

(Full-text. Published online: September 14, 2016)