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Vacuum Erection Devices

The vacuum erection device (VED) continues to be a viable way to treat erectile dysfunction (ED), according to a report in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Men with erectile dysfunction are unable to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. ED is a frustrating condition. Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available.

Nowadays, one of the most common ED treatments is oral medication. But some men are unable to take ED pills because the medication interacts with other drugs. For example, ED pills are not safe for men who take nitrates for conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. Also, ED pills do not work for every man.

A vacuum erection device involves no medication. It is made up of three parts: a clear plastic cylinder, a pump, and an elastic ring.

To use the device, a man places the cylinder over his penis and operates the pump to create a vacuum, increasing blood flow to the penis. When the penis is erect, he slides the elastic ring around the base of the penis. This keeps blood in the penis and maintains the erection. When finished with sex, the ring is removed. (To avoid injury, the ring should not stay on for more than 30 minutes.)

VEDs have been around since the late 1800s, but they gained popularity in the 1960s and were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1982.

Research on Vacuum Erection Devices

The Journal of Sexual Medicine report discusses a number of studies that have shown the effectiveness of VEDs over the years. Most notably, VEDs have been helpful for men who

  • Have ED caused by diabetes or spinal cord injury
  • Cannot take or tolerate ED drugs
  • Have ED after prostate cancer treatment
  • Are undergoing penile rehabilitation after a radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland)

While VEDs may appear rather awkward to use, many men find themselves able to have intercourse as they did before. There are few side effects. Some men have discomfort or numbness, but these effects are usually minor. Partners are generally satisfied.

The study authors encouraged healthcare providers to think about VEDs when treating ED.

“The VED should be considered an attractive second-line therapy and, in some cases such as men who cannot use [ED medication] or in penile rehabilitation, the vacuum device should be considered first-line treatment,” they wrote.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Brison, Daniel, MD, et al.

“The Resurgence of the Vacuum Erection Device (VED) for Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction”

(Full-text. January 24, 2013)

Sexual Medicine Society of North America

“Vacuum Devices - Erectile Dysfunction”